Leeds United 2 (Rodrigo 23, Aaronson 74) Wolves 1 (Podence 6)
Despite a positive showing at Elland Road, two slip-ups in the Wolves defence saw Leeds United take all three points as Premier League football returned for 2022/23.
Wolves came out of the blocks flying and took an early lead through Daniel Podence, but in an end-to-end contest in West Yorkshire, it was the hosts who were able to claim the spoils on opening day as Rodrigo pounced in the gold and black box midway through the first period, before Brenden Aaronson found the winner during a second-half Bruno Lage’s men more than dominated.
With the change to a back four, Wolves were a lot more open than what supporters have become accustomed to during the past five years, with a frantic first-half seeing several chances at both ends of the pitch.
After having a sighter within the first two minutes, which flew narrowly wide of Illan Meslier’s goal from 25 yards out, Podence was able to find the back of the net with his second effort moments later.
A delightfully floated ball over the top of the Leeds defence from Ruben Neves landed at the feet of Pedro Neto, who outmuscled his marker before whipping a dangerous cross into the box towards Hee Chan Hwang. The Korean headed a first-time ball into the path of Podence who hit an acrobatic looping effort over the head of the keeper and in off the underside of the crossbar.
There was a threat from both sides in an end-to-end half of football, and Leeds came close to finding an equaliser through new signing Aaronson whose shot from the edge of the box deflected wide off a gold and black shirt.
The hosts were appealing for a penalty on 15 minutes as Jose Sa missed a catch from a long free-kick and appeared to take out Rasmus Kristensen, but the referee was unmoved. But Leeds did get themselves back on level terms when Rayan Ait-Nouri lost possession as he tried to turn inside his own box, leaving Rodrigo with a chance on target, which he fired inside the post.
Wolves had opportunities of their own to regain the lead through Hwang, Neto and Podence, but more and more chances as the half progressed fell to those in white shirts, with Sa – who almost turned the ball into his own goal when he dribbled the ball across his goalline – being tested on a few occasions.
But Meslier was still being called into action at the other end, with the Leeds keeper making a good stop right on half-time to deny Leander Dendoncker who was found by a clever Podence flick inside the penalty area, and his effort from 10 yards out was blocked.
Half-time | Leeds 1-1 Wolves
Wolves slowed down the game in the second period and were all the better for it, with Lage’s men continuing to pepper the Leeds goal with chances.
Neves, who is so often potent from outside the penalty area, was unable to replicate that here as his effort flew well over the crossbar. His midfielder partner Dendoncker also had a chance from a corner, but his header was narrowly above the woodwork.
The gold and black shirts were playing some neat football but were just falling short in the final third, with Morgan Gibbs-White bringing a save from Meslier, while Ait-Nouri was denied what would have been a certain goal by a brilliant sliding tackle from Kristensen.
Despite being in control of the half, Wolves fell behind on 74 minutes when Bamford was played in between the visitor’s defence and his cross into the six-yard box was taped in by Aaronson from close range. Leeds would have doubled their advantage if not for a stunning save from Sa to deny Bamford’s point-blank header.
Wolves tried their hardest to find the equalising effort but having not made a change to the 85th minute, there were plenty of tired legs in gold shirts, which impacted the threat they could pose the Leeds defence, and in the end, the hosts held strong to secure the three points and condemn Wolves to an opening day defeat.
Full-time | Leeds 2-1 Wolves
Leeds | Meslier, Struijk, Koch, Llorente, Kristensen, Adams, Roca (Greenwood 73), Aaronson (Summerville 84), Harrison, Rodrigo (Klich 64), Bamford (Gelhardt 84).
Unused subs | Klaesson, Hjelde, Drameh, Gray, Gyabi.
Wolves | Sa, Jonny, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Dendoncker, Gibbs-White, Podence, Neto, Hwang (Campbell 85).
Unused subs | Sarkic, Mosquera, Boly, Coady, Bueno, Ronan, Hodge, Cundle.
Referee | Robert Jones