Friday, April 12

Brenden Aaronson inspires Leeds to comeback victory over Wolves

Jesse Marsch made Brenden Aaronson his first Leeds United signing, getting the American to join six days after they scraped Premier League survival. The forward showed everything that the new Leeds should be with his relentless work off the ball and skill on it before influencing the winner to replace the relief of survival with hope of progress in an American revolution.

Leeds are far from being a finished product under Marsch’s leadership but the fact they were able to battle back from going a goal behind and did not concede a second when under undue pressure will be all important for a team who won three times at home last season.

Leeds looked disorganised from the opening whistle, struggling to find anything close to rhythm but sadly for them this was not a pre-season friendly. Summer signing Rasmus Kristensen was welcomed to the Premier League in the sixth minute when he was shouldered off the ball by Pedro Neto, allowing the Portuguese to cross to the back post for Hwang Hee-chan, who played under Marsch at RB Salzburg, to head into the path of Daniel Podence to acrobatically miss-hit the ball into the ground and beyond Illan Meslier via the crossbar.

A boisterous Elland Road was eventually reflected on the pitch as Leeds’s attacking players started to pass and move at pace. Aaronson’s deflected shot went inches wide to give a glimpse of his quality. The fans were being fired up by Leeds’ improvement and Wolves’ melodrama on the pitch, further agitated when goalkeeper José Sá clattered into Kristensen in the box without getting close to the ball. The referee Robert Jones and those with access to a replay strangely thought it was not worth a penalty.

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Wolves somehow managed to fit in three mistakes within seconds to allow Leeds to equalise. First Rayan Aït-Nouri was tackled when trying to execute a 180 degree turn, before Rúben Neves’ clearance was blocked, allowing Rodrigo to pick up the pieces and thrash the ball under Sá from an acute angle.

The calamitous efforts that aided Rodrigo’s goal was the nadir for two teams that do not look like they have worked on defensive organisation during the pre-season. Sá did try to self-inflict further misery on Wolves when he miscontrolled a back pass on the line and was closed down by captain for the day Patrick Bamford but he could not make the most of the opportunity, much to the goalkeeper’s relief.

At the other end Meslier had great composure when he came out quickly to smother a shot from Leander Dendoncker’s last kick of the half following a cut and thrust move from Wolves. The Frenchman was the difference after the break too, tipping over a header from his Belgian nemesis to keep things level as Wolves began to control proceedings.

Kristensen had to put in a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle to stop Aït-Nouri running clear on goal, making amends for his error which led to Wolves’s opener. Leeds resorted to playing with 11 men behind the ball for spells to stop Wolves breaking through. Marsch saw the tide was against Leeds and he had to change things, bringing on his only outfield substitute over the age of 20, Mateusz Klich. It is a sign of the struggles Leeds have once more with squad depth due to the absence of Adam Forshaw, Luke Ayling, Junior Firpo, Stuart Dallas and Luis Sinisterra.

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One key absentee for much of last season was Bamford who showed his importance to the team when he spun Nathan Collins to get into the box and deliver a perfect low cross, forcing Aït-Nouri to turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Aaronson.

The game became stretched and Bamford should have sealed it with a header but saw Sá react quickly to repel his powerful effort. Bamford and Aaronson were replaced with than 10 minutes to go and rightly received a standing ovation. Marsch and Leeds fans will be hoping – and even a little optimistic – that it will not be the last time that duo will get them off their seats this season.

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