Ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers' trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United in the Premier League on Monday night, Vavel look back on a thrilling clash at Molineux on April 6 2015.
Finishing 4-3 after a late winner from Dave Edwards, the result proved crucial in Kenny Jackett’s Wolves' attempt to reach the Championship play-offs. It saw them move into 6th place amidst a tight battle for play-off spots - only three points separated 5th-placed Derby County from 8th-placed Ipswich Town. Leeds, meanwhile, sat 14th with little to play for, safe from the drop and with no chance of promotion.
A plethora of goals
Leeds opened the scoring early – Charlie Taylor scored the first goal of his senior career after just 11 minutes after some ruthless high pressing out wide on Kevin McDonald by the debutant Kalvin Phillips forced a misjudged pass towards the centre of the pitch, which took a deflection off Richard Stearman on its way into the box. Taylor, completely unmarked, took full advantage from six yards.
The advantage didn’t last long – eight minutes later, Nouha Dicko equalised for Wolves. Benik Afobe’s shot along the ground beat goalkeeper Marco Silvestri but the ball was on its way out for a goal kick as Afobe couldn’t put it the right side of the far post.
However, Dicko’s positioning was exceptional as he appeared at just the right moment for a free shot into an open goal from close range. Despite these ideal circumstances for his shot, it was far from a tap-in; Dicko was sprinting to reach the ball and had to shoot from an almost impossibly tight angle.
While the finish was one of great quality, Dicko humbly dismissed it as a “lucky” shot when discussing the goal with WolvesTV’s Mikey Burrows in 2020.
Dicko added a second goal in first half stoppage time – Bakary Sako played a beautiful lobbed ball from the halfway line, over the heads of the Leeds defenders and to the feet of his team-mate, who drilled the ball low with tremendous power from just inside the Leeds box, putting it in off the near post.
Shortly after the interval, Dicko made his third goal contribution, not that he knew much about it in the moment. Jack Price floated a ball in from just outside the Leeds penalty area, aimed at Afobe on the left side of the six-yard box.
Afobe attempted a rather spectacular overhead kick and missed the ball completely, allowing it to be headed away, but only as far as Sako. Sako then pulled it back to Wolves captain Danny Batth on the edge of the box, whose shot ricocheted off Dicko’s shin and straight into the path of Afobe, who was not going to miss the target from three yards out. Silvestri did well to make contact with the shot, but his chances of stopping it were minimal.
Batth then inadvertently put Leeds back in the game – while attempting to deal with a long pass into the box by Alex Mowatt his foot caught the ball at just the wrong angle, and he turned the ball into his own net instead of putting it wide of the post.
Leeds then increased the tempo and began to push high again – in the 74th minute Mowatt picked off a slightly careless pass by Stearman, carrying the ball 15 yards up the pitch and firing his shot past Carl Ikeme from 20 yards out to equalise.
In the 88th minute, McDonald backed up Rajiv van la Parra on the left flank, then received the ball and sent an in-swinging cross towards the penalty spot, straight onto the head of Edwards, who had come on to replace Dicko. After conceding their fourth goal of the game, Leeds did not properly threaten the hosts again.
While the close scoreline and 53-47 share in possession suggested that Leeds did not deserve to lose, Wolves managed 19 shots (8 on target) to Leeds’ 7 (3 on target) and won 9 corners to Leeds’ 1.
This shows that Wolves were the more aggressive side going forwards, making more from their possession and creating their goals from periods of possession rather than relying on forcing defensive errors to create goalscoring opportunities as Leeds did.
What happened next?
Wolves narrowly missed out on sixth, setting the record for the highest points total for a team finishing outside the play-off places (78). Jackett’s men came agonisingly close – tied for points with fifth-placed Brentford and sixth-placed Ipswich (with former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy at the helm), they were only behind on goal difference, Wolves finishing with +14, Ipswich with +18 and Brentford with +19.
Coincidentally, Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves team of 2019/20 only missed out on sixth place by goal difference as well, finishing tied for points with sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on 59, and with a goal difference of +11 to Spurs’ +14.
Looking back earlier this year, Ikeme remarked that the Wolves team of 2014/15 was “the most free-flowing football team I’ve actually played in”, but after the victory over Leeds they “ran out of steam” in the words of left-back Scott Golbourne. In his mind, they “did have a special team […] and I don’t think we quite achieved as much as we could.”
Golbourne added that “I think if we would have got in the play-offs, […] we would have continued on and got promotion because, you know, we definitely had enough quality in the team […] but we couldn’t quite keep the momentum that we had to finish that season. But that game in particular, that’s definitely a standout game."
"In terms of the atmosphere, when Eddo scores that goal, the whole place just comes alive.”