Leeds’ EFL Cup journey came to an end this evening after losing a closely-fought contest with Wolves at Molineux one goal to nil.
The Whites’ starting XI was notably weaker than the one which came back to beat Bournemouth 4-3 last Saturday as manager Jesse Marsch made ten changes to his side, with the only player retaining his place being Jack Harrison.
They lined up against a Wolves team which was much stronger all over the pitch in comparison, most strikingly represented in a forward line composed of Goncalo Guedes, Hwang Hee-chan and Adama Traore.
Despite this, it was Leeds who started the game more brightly by putting Wolves under immediate pressure, resulting in them winning four corners within the match’s first four minutes. It was from one of these corners that Leeds had their best chance of the half and ultimately the game, as Leo Hjelde forced a fine save from keeper Matija Sarkic through a close-range header.
Chances were few and far between for the Whites from this point, despite neat-link up play around the penalty area of the opposition. In many instances it was a poor final ball or the offside flag which prevented them from mustering any significant effort on the Wolves goal.
Wolves, conversely, grew into the game as Leeds’ threat gradually diminished. Much of the attacking play for Wanderers came from out wide, with forwards Guedes and Traore employing crosses and shots from distance in equal measure.
Employing this tactic generated Wolves’ best first-half attempt on goal as Traore skimmed a low driven shot just wide halfway through it.
Halftime came with both teams relatively evenly-matched, with Leeds having come closest to breaking the deadlock early in the half through Hjelde’s headed effort.
The second half continued in very much the same way the first one had ended – as a highly competitive affair in which both teams desperately sought a goal to break the deadlock.
The first chance of the second half fell the Whites’ way, as Jack Harrison missed an opportunity very similar in nature to Traore’s in the first half, sending a ball just wide of Sarkic’s right post.
Two chances in quick succession for either side arrived just minutes later, both from headers, but were still not enough to produce a goal.
As the second half progressed penalties began to seem inevitable, as both sides struggled to break down the other and produce any clear cut chances.
This wasn’t to be, however, as second half substitute Boubacar Traore fired in a powerful shot after being left unmarked on the edge of the Whites’ box with five minutes still to play. Conceding in such a manner will concern Leeds supporters, as in many respects Traore’s goal closely resembled the one scored by Bournemouth’s Philip Billing last Saturday, once again exposing the defensive deficiencies of Jesse Marsch’s footballing system.
Whilst a win would have proven useful for maintaining momentum going into the final Premier League game before the World Cup break against Spurs at the weekend, it is not massively damaging. Spirited performances from first-team debutants Darko Gyabi and Sonny Perkins will give Leeds fans encouragement that these much-touted figures are worthy of the praise they’ve received for their Under-21s performances so far this season.
Marsch’s priority now is getting his team firing on all cylinders before they travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday to give his side the best chance of emerging with some sort of positive result.