Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch: Belief was the key to incredible comeback win at Wolves

A second memorable, dramatic and crucial win for Leeds United in the space of five days was all down to having the belief they could do it according to head coach Jesse Marsch.

By Tony Harber
Saturday, 19th March 2022, 7:30 am
Luke Ayling celebrates his winning goal against Wolves with teammates Rodrigo and Robin Koch.

Two down to Wolves at half-time, four players taken off with injuries in the first 55 minutes and bad luck dogging them at every turn, it seemed the Whites were heading right back into relegation danger just days after they pulled off the thrilling win against Norwich.

But an inspiring half-time team talk from Marsch, the luck finally turning and sheer will to win saw Leeds fight back in fantastic style to come home from Molyneux with all three points from a 3-2 win.

They were helped by Wolves striker Raul Jimenez being sent-off with his side seemingly in control at 2-0.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

Patrick Bamford had to go off through injury in the first half of Leeds United's game at Wolves.

He may not have intended to clatter into Illan Meslier, but he caught him sufficiently to lead to the Leeds keeper having to be taken off injured and received a second yellow card for his reckless action, having been booked in the first half for a worse late foul that could have seen him sent-off for that alone.

Joao Moutinho could have also seen red for a dangerous challenge on Stuart Dallas and further dangerous fouls in the game so any complaints Wolves could have had about finishing with 10 men should fall on deaf ears.

Yes, the Whites fell apart in the midst of an unprecedented first half injury crisis, but they were deserving of their eventual win, having created plenty of chances at 11 v 11 as well 11 v 10 and the hosts could only have themselves to blame for letting the game slip.

"We were talking at half-time not about tactics but about not feeling sorry for ourselves," said head coach Marsch.

"After three injuries and a late goal, to be thinking it's not our day and what will we do now? I encouraged them to believe that a good start to the half and a goal will change things.

"Then we got a boost from the red card, which was deserved.

"We have a real quality of men. No subs left, four injuries, they were gutsy, they dug in and pushed the game, stayed tough. Young guys coming on and delivering performances like that says a lot about the character of the men that we have, they deserve credit.

"That’s the identity of Leeds United - gritty, hard, never saying die, giving everything you can to the match. These men do that in a big way. What a result."

Marsch was delighted with the spirit and togetherness shown by the players.

He added: "I told them it was not just one of the best results of my career but that I've seen in the game.

"Two in a row. All about the character and hearts of our men. They deserve all the credit. They went on the pitch and went for it and believed in themselves.

"Moment after moment after moment, they pushed the game. We will continue to push that mindset and be clearer about how we play football.

"Everton won and I didn't care. All I want to focus on is us. To stay true and calm to our process, to push ourselves every day, growing, finding a way to control what we can.

"We have the quality of people and players to control destiny - not just to survive but thrive in this situation. That’s the goal."

After the madness of the Norwich game, this match did its best to top it, not least with the remarkable number of first half injuries that led to 11 minutes of stoppage time eventually being played and Wolves scoring their second goal in the last minute of it.

Wolves lost key midfielder Ruben Neves, but before the break Leeds had lost Patrick Bamford, Diego Llorente and Mateusz Klich, the latter to a head injury. It was the first time the club had used the recent rule to allow an extra change for a concussion and the first time they have had to make three injury substitutions in the first half of a game.

They had started brightly, taking the game to the hosts despite not having Raphinha in their line-up due to covid, with Rodrigo almost scoring when getting on the end of a Dan James cross.

Daniel Podence saw a shot from range comfortable saved by Meslier, but Leeds should have been ahead when a good press led to Bamford being in the clear. He controlled the ball well only to shoot just wide.

Another good move saw Bamford in the clear again, but after he stretched to try to bring the ball down he injured himself and had to go off, to be replaced by youngster Sam Greenwood.

The sight of an obviously disappointed Bamford back on the sidelines seemed to affect United and they went behind when poor defending allowed Wolves too much space and their early sub Trincao pulled the ball back for Jonny to score.

It was almost two when Trincao hit the woodwork with a well struck shot from 25 yards out.

All the injuries stopped the flow of the game and Leeds were just trying to get used to all their changes when they let in a second goal right at the end of added time.

With young defender Charlie Cresswell on and second sub Robin Koch playing initially in defence then midfield the Whites looked all over the place and awful defending led to their opponents making it 2-0, Trincao netting calmly from the edge of the area after Leeds switched off from a free-kick.

The turning point proved the sending off of Jimenez, but even though United had an extra man their team now included three youngsters with little first team experience between them - Kristoffer Klaesson coming on for his Premier League debut in goals to join Cresswell and Greenwood on the pitch.

They got their lifeline on 63 minutes as Koch's fine pass played Luke Ayling in and the skipper controlled the ball well before hitting his angled shot against the post. The rebound came back out towards him, but Romain Saiss got there first and sent the ball towards his own goal. It was then cleared off the line only for Jack Harrison to make no mistake with the third attempt.

Leeds roared back into attack again and within three minutes were level when James hit the crossbar with a clever lob, but after Saiss sliced his attempted clearance Rodrigo pounced to go round the keeper and see his shot deflected into the net.

With Wolves now only relying on long punts forward, United took charge, but it took them until the closing stages to create further good chances.

James missed a glorious opportunity following a superb run and low cross by Harrison as his shot was blocked at close range. Harrison then took matters into his own hands with a fine strike that was equally well saved by Jose Sa.

At the start of another eight minutes of stoppage time Leeds pushed forward again and came up with what turned out to be a winner.

It did not look the best of crosses as Harrison's ball in looked to be going out of play, but Ayling managed to just reach it and head the ball back into the middle. Again Wolves failed to clear and Ayling was sharp to latch on to the loose ball and smash his shot through Sa into the net.

Cue wild scenes of celebration on the pitch, the touchline and in the stands, yet it was not all over with Klaesson called on to make two important saves as Wolves threw men forward.

The celebration for real could start, however, when Kevin Friend blew the final whistle to end another memorable game that lasted 110 minutes.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

(Jonny 26, Trincao 45+11)

Leeds United 3

(Harrison 63, Rodrigo 66, Ayling 90+1)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 31,842

Wolves: Sa; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Jonny (Silva 90+4), Moutinho, Neves (Trincao 25), Dendoncker (Oliveira 90+3), Ait-Nouri; Jimenez (sent-off 53), Podence (Hee-Chan 78).

Leeds: Meslier (Klaesson 55); Ayling, Llorente (Koch 40), Struijk, Dallas; Forshaw, Klich (Cresswell 45); James, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford (Greenwood 23).

Referee: Kevin Friend