Adama Traoré tends to specialise in the spectacular. Wolves had been waiting for him to turn on the style and, with an hour played, Traore took matters into his own hands, bouncing in off the left wing before sending a thunderbolt against the bar to earn Nuno Espirito Santo’s side successive league wins for the first time since October. The sad thing is, his handiwork – a preposterous striker from outside the box – will ultimately go down as an Ilan Meslier own goal, given his effort fell in off the backside of the Leeds goalkeeper before rippling the net.
Leeds have received plenty of plaudits for their attacking punch but victory for Wolves lifts them above Marcelo Bielsa’s side. Leeds, as they so often do, looked dangerous throughout but the reality is only bottom club West Bromwich Albion have conceded more goals in the Premier League this season. Leeds will wonder how they failed to leave with at least a goal to their name. Patrick Bamford had an emphatic equaliser ruled out for offside, sending the watching the animated Leeds director of football, Victor Orta, into a fit of rage in the director’s box.
Question marks over Nuno and the concern surrounding Wolves suddenly feels silly after three wins in four league matches. They rode their luck and into five minutes of second-half stoppage time the substitute Helder Costa was superbly denied by Rui Patrício, who was kept busy under the lights.
Pedro Neto revealed his mother has been encouraging him to shoot more often and the 20-year-old, who lives at home with his parents in Wolverhampton, acted upon that wish in the opening stages, unleashing a swerving shot at goal from 25 yards. Liam Cooper was caught in possession and Neto turned away from Stuart Dallas before forcing Ilan Meslier into a fine left-hand save. It seemed to give Leeds a jolt.
Tyler Roberts, on his first Leeds start since October, was fortunate to escape a booking for a late challenge on Conor Coady and so too Wolves’ Romain Saïss for a foul on Patrick Bamford.
Bamford was presumably among those of interest to the watching England manager, Gareth Southgate, although Kalvin Phillips was again absent with a calf problem.
Leeds shaded a seesawing first half and rattled the woodwork through Mateusz Klich. He surged to the byline and miscued a cross that caught Rui Patrício off guard but the ball cannoned off his left post. The Wolves goalkeeper prevented Pascal Struijk powering in the initial rebound before Leander Dendoncker blocked the leftovers. Moments earlier, Cooper sent a tame header at goal after arriving unmarked to meet Raphinha’s free-kick at the penalty spot.
Wolves’ best opening in an entertaining first period came when Neto slipped in Nélson Semedo on the counterattack but the wing-back fired his shot straight at a grateful Meslier.
Roberts was bright from the off for Leeds – his clever dummy almost created an opening on five minutes – but Wolves struggled to quell Raphinha. Saïss deflected a shot by the Brazilian wide for a corner but the ball almost fell kindly for Roberts at the back post.
Stuart Dallas later sent a teasing cross into the box with Raphinha lurking but was guilty of overcooking his pass.
In the continued absence of Raúl Jiménez, who last week returned to outdoor training following a fractured skull, Wolves have relied on Neto to produce – no player under the age of 21 has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season.
But, after 24 league games, it was time for Traoré to deliver. Seconds after Patrício batted away another feathery Cooper header, Wolves opened the scoring in style. Traoré zoomed inside from the left flank, leaving Luke Ayling for dust before holding Struijk at arm’s length and sending a ferocious effort flying towards goal from the edge of the D. It crashed off the junction of bar and post and into the goal via a hapless Meslier.