By James Dielhenn
Saturday 18th September 2012
Elland Road, Att: 23,745
Leeds 1 - 0 Wolves
Team: Kenny, Byram, Peltier, Pearce, White, Green, Austin, Norris, Varney, McCormack, Becchio
Subs: Ashdown, Drury, Lees (on for Mccormack 75), Kisnorbo, Brown, Diouf (on for Green 45), Gray
For the first time in months, optimism surrounds the Leeds United team. Aggression, commitment and dedication were on show at Elland Road in abundance and it has been a while since we could have said that. Neil Warnock has put together a hard-working team that will battle anybody, and while question marks may surround Leeds' creativity and skill in the final third, their graft was enough to topple Wolves.
Paddy Kenny didn't really have a proper save to make, such was Wolves' lack of quality in front of goal and Leeds' dominant back four. Kenny did, however, rush off his line to clear a few crosses in a confident manner. His pass that led to the goal was sublime, too. Distribution has been a real problem for Leeds keepers in the past couple of seasons so it was impressive to see Kenny use his feet with such technique. 7
Sam Byram looks to be a real revelation. Neil Warnock admitted afterwards that Byram played on merit rather than due to other defenders' injuries, so the 18-year-old has his manager's faith. And rightly so after this performance. Faced with Matt Jarvis, rated by his club at over £10m, Byram was beaten early on but stuck to his task and ended up winning the battle against the big-money winger. His timing in the tackle was excellent, and so was his bravery to keep committing even when the going got tough. He switched to right midfield later in the game as Warnock shored up the defence and did a good job of helping Leeds hang on. 7
Lee Peltier, at centre-back, was handed the captaincy and responded with a classy performance. His strength, pace and agility is not something that Leeds have had in central defence for a while. He couldn't always win aerial balls, but Peltier defended solidly and nothing bypassed him. 7
Jason Pearce, the other centre-back, was the best player. He was totally dominant at the back and shows all the signs of being a top-class player in the making. In the air, Pearce heads everything, but he was equally adept at covering for his team-mates and sweeping up any danger. Pearce was even cool when in possession. A brilliant display. 8
Tom Lees came on for the last 15 minutes to make Leeds more solid as they hung on to victory, and during that time he made a few timely interventions and definitely played his part. 7
Aidy White struggled at left-back, though. It is easy to forget he is still so young because he has gathered a season of Championship experience already. Against Wolves he looked dodgy though - slipping over once at a critical time and being beaten for skill on several occasions. He picked up a booking after one player skinned him. White had to rely on Pearce to maintain the defensive stability next to him. 5
Rodolph Austin is already a fans' favourite. The deepest lying of the midfield, he epitomises everything about Warnock's philosophy. Austin flew into countless tackles with strength and aggression, dominating the midfield battle. He doesn't shirk a single tackle. He also possesses an impressive engine and was still running frantically to close down the opposition in the closing stages. He isn't the greatest with the ball, but Austin's performance was superb. 8
David Norris also did a sterling job in central midfield next to Austin. Given license to bomb forward, Norris made intelligent runs and got into goal scoring opportunities several times. He was busy and combative. 7
Paul Green had an impressive showing until succumbing to injury after 44 minutes. He retained the ball well and despite his lack of pace and guile, used his intelligence to pose Wolves problems from the right wing. 7
Green's replacement El-Hadji Diouf went some distance to winning over the sceptical fans with his hard-working performance. His experience showed as he protected the young Byram behind him. Diouf was strong and as Leeds were hanging on, his ability to keep the ball was vital. A really good showing. 7
Luke Varney, on the left wing, didn't get into the game much. He had a great chance to score but his control let him down as he ran through on goal. He'll need to improve, although he put in a shift. 7
Ross McCormack played very well, the day after signing his new contract. He played right up-front in a 4-4-2, and his movement across the width of the pitch was too clever at times for Wolves to track. His control and cross for the goal were immaculate. Unfortunately he didn't get a proper chance on goal and was subbed as he faded in the second half. 7
Luciano Becchio might just be back to his best. The target man looked fully fit, and ran his heart out for the cause. he also showed some fantastic hold-up play at times. The way he took his goal was very classy - it was a difficult finish but Becchio stuck it away. He'll need to be on this form all season, such is his importance. 7
Wolves were a Premier League team last season so this win was impressive for Leeds. Feet must remain on the ground, but it was undeniably the perfect start.
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