Leeds United climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone by holding off a late Wolves comeback to win an exciting game at Molineux.
The win moves Javi Gracia’s team, which started the day in 19th place, four places and two points above the bottom three.
After a bright start, Jack Harrison, who scored in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at home to Brighton, side-footed Wilfried Gnonto’s cut-back past Jose Sa to give the visitors an early lead.
Leeds doubled their lead four minutes into the second half when Luke Ayling beat Sa with a low header from point-blank range after being completely unmarked by the Wolves defense.
Jonny’s questionable defending gifted Rasmus Kristensen a third goal in the second half, before the Wolves winger gave his team hope with a spectacular volleyed finish after Illan Meslier had come rushing out of his goal to make a clearance.
Matheus Cunha’s deflected strike set up a tense finish, but Wolves’ hopes of a dramatic comeback were dashed when Jonny was shown a straight red card with just over six minutes remaining for a reckless, studs-up challenge on Ayling.
Rodrigo scored his 11th league goal of the season deep into added time, lifting the ball over the onrushing Sa.
“I enjoyed [the game] more in the first half,” Gracia said afterwards on BBC Match of the Day. “We suffered a lot in the second half.
“We knew coming here that it would be a difficult game. We may have thought the game was over after scoring three goals.
“My players have earned their rewards. To win here, they did many things well.”
Julen Lopetegui’s Wolves remain 13th, but only three points above the relegation zone, despite having played at least one more game than the majority of their opponents near the bottom of the table.
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Leeds’ survival bid gets a boost from a rare away win.
Leeds have shown plenty of promise in their two home games under new manager Gracia, but had previously lost both away games under the 52-year-old, at Fulham in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the league.
The visitors didn’t start like a team that had only one top-flight win on the road this season, taking the game to Wolves and taking the lead with just six minutes on the clock.
Gnonto, who replaced Crysencio Summerville in the starting lineup, was particularly lively early on and justified his manager’s decision with a brilliant cut-back into Harrison, who side-footed home his second goal in as many games.
The visitors had their backs to the wall for the rest of the first half as Wolves applied heavy pressure, but smart goalkeeping, last-ditch defending, and wasteful finishing ensured they went into half-time with a narrow lead.
Second-half goals from Ayling – his first since scoring in Leeds’ 3-2 win at Molineux on 18 March last year – and Kristensen appeared to set Leeds up for a rare away win, but Jonny’s spectacular finish and Cunha’s low effort – which took a heavy deflection off Maximilian Wober on its way in – provided Wolves with an unlikely lifeline.
When Jonny caught the Leeds skipper with a high challenge after a heavy touch, Ayling was fortunate to escape serious injury, but the 31-year-old was quickly back on his feet to help the visitors seal the victory.
Rodrigo’s late effort was subject to a VAR review due to an apparent foul by Marc Roca on Adama Traore in the build-up, but referee Michael Salisbury decided to award the goal after viewing the incident on his pitchside monitor.
Jonny was frustrated by the Wolves on an eventful afternoon.
Wolves insisted on a penalty at St James’ Park last weekend, and they were enraged by Salisbury’s failure to award one after Junior Firpo appeared to clip Nelson Semedo in the area minutes after Harrison’s opener.
Lopetegui was perplexed as the video assistant referee confirmed Salisbury’s original decision, before venting to fourth official Andre Marriner.
The hosts, on the other hand, had no complaints about dismissing Jonny, who had an eventful afternoon to say the least.
In the build-up to Leeds’ third goal, the 29-year-old should have cleared a low cross but failed to adequately shield the ball under pressure from Kristensen, who drilled the ball into the far corner.
Jonny then put Wolves ahead with a spectacular 35-yard volley after Roca had headed Meslier’s clearance into his path.
However, the defender’s afternoon was marred by his dismissal for a challenge on Ayling. The Spaniard had no intent, but Salisbury wasted no time in brandishing the red card after being told to review the tackle on his monitor.
Substitute not used Matheus Nunes was also shown a red card late in the second half after arguing with the officials following Rodrigo’s late goal.
Wolves’ meeting with Nottingham Forest after the international break now has added significance after conceding four goals for the first time since October.