Leeds United 0 Wolves 3 – Report and pictures
Wolves returned to form in some style with an emphatic 3-0 win at Leeds.
Nuno Espirito Santo's team were superb in the first half and deserved at least the two goal lead they earned thanks to goals from Romain Saiss and Willy Boly, both from Barry Douglas corners.
Wolves had spurned a host of first half chances and almost made it 3-0 on the hour mark when Diogo Jota hit the bar.
Substitute Benik Afobe sealed the point with a brilliant 25-yard lob as Wolves restored their six-point lead at the top.
Welcome back Wolves, you've been missed.
It's only been a couple of weeks since they played like one of the best teams this league has seen in recent years, but those two weeks had caused some minor alarm for their nervy fanbase, writes Tim Spiers at Elland Road.
Just a pair of below par results against Norwich and Fulham and all of a sudden Cardiff had closed the gap to second from 13 points to just three.
Not to worry, this Wolves team always seems to pick up a win when it really could do with one (ala Ipswich away) and they duly returned to form in scintillating style with one of their most dominant displays of the season.
They played with flair, with precision and with freedom. Jota and Cavaleiro glided around the Leeds third like a pair of elegant swans, Douglas and Doherty rampaged and grunted down the flanks like Harley Davidsons in a motorway fast lane and in defence a new back three of Danny Batth, Conor Coady and Willy Boly repelled everything Leeds could muster like burly bouncers on a nightclub door.
Wolves were electric. They should have been 4-0 or 5-0 up at the break and were more than good value for their eventual 3-0 victory.
Nuno had spoken of his team getting back to the levels of earlier in the season. On his signal they unleashed hell and were simply a class apart from a befuddled Leeds side who could do little but try and keep the score down.
With the wing backs given licence to bomb forward Wolves looked like the Red Arrows again. It suits them.
Saturday's trip to Villa now looks far less daunting, with a 10-point lead. It won't take many more performances like this for Wolves to get exactly where they want to be.
Nuno made two changes from the team that lost 2-0 at Fulham 11 days ago, restoring captain Danny Batth to the XI for his first start since December.
He came in at the expense of Ryan Bennett, which Diogo Jota replaced Helder Costa in a front three alongside Ivan Cavaleiro and Leo Bonatini.
Wolves came into the game on the back of their worst run of the season and having seen the gap to second and third cut to just three and seven points respectively on Tuesday evening.
However if they had any nerves, they didn't show them. On the contrary, Nuno's team came out showing intent and positivity, closing Leeds down and racing forward in big numbers on the counter in the stylish manner we have seen so often this season.
Jota was vibrant and buzzing around the Leeds third, Cavaleiro could be seen chasing back and winning sliding tackles, while Bonatini's link-up play was back up to standard and the wing backs were overlapping with gusto.
It was Wolves at their best and it was no exaggeration to say they should have been 4-0 up at the break.
There were a number of near misses in the early stages in terms of a quality final touch or pass. Jota nearly played in Bonatini but the Brazilian's touch was poor, Cavaleiro's 15-yarder was saved after great work from the old partners in crime Jota and Bonatini and then Jota somehow missed an absolute sitter, clunking Doherty's perfect cross at the keeper from just six yards.
An unmarked Bonatini then sent a Douglas free kick bobbling past the post with his knee, before impressive keeper Peacock-Farrell rushed out to block Jota.
This was all within the opening 25 minutes. Wolves were rampant and, while they lacked composure perhaps due to being low on confidence, they were slicing through Leeds with breathtaking regularity.
The pressure finally told on 28 minutes and it was the precise left boot of Douglas that created the goal, with his 11st assist of the season being a whipped inswinging corner that Romain Saiss experty guided home from six yards.
Leeds tried to muster a response at the other end but their long balls were meat and drink to the back three, especially Batth who effortlessly settled in after so long out of the side.
Bonatini managed to spurn another golden opportunity after being played in by N'Diaye, with his dink not beating the keeper, but on the stroke of half time rampant Wolves deservedly doubled their lead – and it again came from a Douglas set piece. This time Batth met the corner and crashed his header against the bar but the freshly shaven-headed Willy Boly took advantage of more atrocious Leeds defending to nod the rebound home.
It was the least Wolves deserved for one of their best first halves of the season. A half of attractive, incisive football played at a pace that was too hot for Leeds to handle.
The open nature of the game continued at the start of the second half as Leeds went for broke.
Wolves have had a tendency to sit back on their leads in recent weeks but here they continued to attack and play their natural game.
Douglas saw a shot deflected wide and Bonatini glanced a corner from, yes, Douglas, goalwards but it was cleared off the line.
Stuart Dallas was almost presented with a great opportunity at the other end when Batth misjudged a cross, but Ruddy claimed, shortly after Berardi had whistled 25-yard piledriver just over.
Wolves were inches away from putting the game to bed just after the hour mark when Jota, who was lively and creative in equal measure, crashed a right-footed shot against the bar from the left of the area.
But they didn't have to wait long to seal the points – and they found the perfect manner to do so.
Benik Afobe, who had replaced Bonatini, latched onto a Jota through and brilliantly beat the onrushing keeper with a sumptuous long-range lob that nestled in the corner.
After five goalless appearances since his return on loan it was a timely strike for the front man and the proverbial icing on Wolves' cake.
21 – Matt Doherty plays a perfect ball into the six yard but Diogo Jota gets his bearings wrong and misses his free shot.
28 – GOAL – Barry Douglas whips an inswinging corner to the unmarked ROMAIN SAISS who sends his diving header past the keeper.
42 – Leo Bonatini is through on goal after good work from N'Diaye and Douglas but keeper Peacock-Farrell smothers his attempted dink.
45 – GOAL – Another Douglas corner reaches Danny Batth, his header crashes off the bar and WILLY BOLY nods home the rebound.
62 – Jota's right-footed shot from the left of the box pings off the crossbar and to safety.
73 – GOAL – Jota plays over the top for BENIK AFOBE who beats the keeper to the ball and perfectly lobs into the empty net from 25 yards.
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Anita, Jansson, Cooper (c) (Pennington, 36), Berardi; Phillips, Forshaw; Sacko (Hernandez, 45), Saiz, Dallas, Lasogga (Ekuban, 73).
Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Batth (c), Coady, Boly; Doherty, N'Diaye, Saiss, Douglas; Cavaleiro, Bonatini (Afobe, 70), Jota. Subs: Norris, Bennett, Hause, Miranda, Gibbs-White, Costa.
Goals: Saiss (28), Boly (45) Afobe (73)
Referee: Tim Robinson
1st (76 points from 35 matches)