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Gracia gets his subs right to help Leeds cruise to victory as home side have two players red-carded

By Tom Collomosse AT MOLINEUX

WHEN Diego Costa is acting as peacemaker, you know things really have got out of control.

The Wolves forward has spent his career ready to start a fight in a phone box, but this time he was restraining Matheus Nunes, a fellow unused substitute, who had just been shown a red card and was preparing to turn his fury on referee Michael Salisbury.

The reason for Nunes’ anger was Salisbury’s decision to allow Rodrigo’s injury-time fourth for Leeds, following a VAR check, even though there appeared to be a shirt pull on Adama Traore at the start of the move.

Yet the match had long since descended into fury and bitterness as the tension of the tightest Premier League relegation battle in years took hold. Leeds moved out of the bottom three but Wolves were outraged, with Julen Lopetegui’s backroom team requesting to speak to Salisbury after the game.

Wolves’ Jonny was also sent off for a dreadful challenge on Luke Ayling, and there were eight bookings as the referee never managed to establish control. Remarkably, Leeds scored with all four of their shots on target, through Jack Harrison, Ayling, Rasmus Kristensen and Rodrigo.

Three goals down, Wolves rallied through goals by Jonny and Matheus Cunha, but their challenge faded once they were down to 10 men.

Bosses Lopetegui and Javi Gracia were hopping around their technical areas throughout with the Wolves coach barely able to contain his rage at the officials. But he would do just as well to examine his team’s defending. Rodrigo’s goal came on the counter-attack when Wolves were pushing, but the home side were so slack for the first three.

‘It’s a very good win,’ said Gracia. ‘Our players were amazing and deserved this reward. You try to keep as calm as you can but it’s normal in games like these to feel stress. Now I have time to recover and enjoy the points.’

Wilfried Gnonto has been one of the best attackers outside the division’s big six this term and he skipped past Nelson Semedo in the sixth minute, with Harrison stationed on the penalty spot to slam home the Italian’s cut-back.

The home side were convinced they should have had a penalty minutes later when Junior Firpo tried to clear but made contact with Semedo’s boot. After a VAR check, the reprieve was upheld, to the fury of Lopetegui.

Now Wolves were piling on the pressure. Pedro Neto miskicked in front of goal and allowed Max Wober to clear. Wober came to Leeds’ rescue again shortly before the half-hour mark with another block, this time from Semedo. Then Ruben Neves went desperately close with a swerving effort.

Leeds thought Craig Dawson should have been given a second yellow card when he impeded Patrick Bamford moments after collecting a booking for a foul on Harrison.

Leeds hung on until the break and doubled their lead five minutes afterwards. It was awful defending as nobody followed Ayling’s run to the far post, meaning he was alone in the six-yard box to head in Marc Roca’s corner.

There had been an air of desperation to Wolves’ attacking throughout and, before the hour mark, they had used four substitutes.

One of them, Pablo Sarabia, guided a golden chance wide, moments after Lemina had fluffed his shot when presented with an even better one.

Yet when Leeds made their changes, it was devastating. Less than a minute after replacing Gnonto, Kristensen beat Jonny to Harrison’s cross and with Max Kilman half-asleep, drove in the third.

Jonny had had a desperate game but made up for it a little with a spectacular goal. Illan Meslier moved out of his area to head clear and was slow to return, so when Roca’s header fell to Jonny, he beat Meslier on the volley from 35 yards.

Wolves somehow failed to halve the deficit when Sarabia sent fellow sub Traore away on the right, only for Raul Jimenez to steer a perfect low ball against Meslier. Lopetegui threw his arms in the air as the South Bank howled in pain.

Another low cross from Traore produced another scramble before Wolves grabbed a second when Cunha’s low drive clipped Wober on its way into the net, leaving Meslier helpless.

Leeds were rocking now and Meslier had to be smart to touch over a rising effort from Sarabia.

Jonny then completed a bizarre performance when he was shown the red card following a VAR check after a very bad challenge on Ayling. Rodrigo added insult to injury by scoring the fourth in the closing stages of stoppage time.

That was when Nunes lost his cool, but it is Lopetegui who will spend the next two weeks fretting.

Premier League




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