Javi Gracia credits Leeds pair who stepped up in thrilling win over Wolves; ‘especially happy’ for one goalscorer
Javi Gracia believed his Leeds United players deserved the reward of their win over Wolves on what was at times a stressful afternoon – with a couple of players stepping up to compensate for a key absence.
Leeds secured a vital three points on Saturday afternoon by beating Wolves 4-2. Jack Harrison gave Gracia’s side the lead inside six minutes, before full-backs Luke Ayling and Rasmus Kristensen increased it with goals in the second half.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Leeds from that point on, though. Wolves reduced the deficit when Jonny pulled one back three minutes after Kristensen’s goal, and Matheus Cunha followed it up to make the visitors even more nervous.
However, Jonny then played a part in undoing their efforts for a comeback when he received a red card for a studded challenge on Ayling.
Leeds responded deep into stoppage time by restoring their two-goal cushion when Rodrigo Moreno put the icing on the cake. There was a VAR check after hints of a foul by Marc Roca on Adama Traore, but the referee stuck with his original decision.
In the aftermath, there was another red card to a Wolves player – this time for substitute Matheus Nunes. Clearly, the hosts felt aggrieved at how things had unfolded.
But from the Leeds perspective, that was a crucial win that lifts them out of the relegation zone and up to 14th place, just one point behind Wolves and with a game in hand over them.
Gracia told a post-match press conference: “Today we got a very, very good win.
“Our players did an amazing game and they deserve the reward because we showed a very good display.”
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Leeds had to navigate the game without influential midfielder Tyler Adams, but Gracia was happy with how others in the department coped.
The manager explained: “Weston [McKennie] and Marc [Roca] played very well in those positions. Today, both played in my opinion at a very good level.
“If today we got this win it was because of the players playing well.”
Gracia gives Rodrigo update
Gracia was also glad to see Rodrigo on the scoresheet after bringing him on in the 67th minute.
According to Gracia, the attacker “has always been a key player for this club.”
He added: “Now, we are trying to recover his best condition because he needs to work. Only part of last week and this week. Day by day he will improve, but you can see the quality in playing even 30 minutes.”
After the international break, Leeds will return to action on April 1 with a trip to face league leaders Arsenal.
As for Rodrigo’s involvement by then, Gracia said: “Yes, we need him. One of our targets across the next two weeks. I cannot tell you if he will play 90 minutes at Arsenal, but he will be better.”
There were also words of support for a less familiar goalscorer, Kristensen.
Gracia said: “I am especially happy for him because as I said this week, Ras deserved that reward. Always working with a smile on his face. Always helping the rest of the team.
“Like a manager, you are happy with these players because they are generous and thinking of the team rather than himself.”
Overall, in summary of the stresses of the match, Gracia concluded: “It never changes. You always try to work and keep the calm.
“There are some moments like today it’s normal to feel the stress. Now I have the time to recover and enjoy the points.”
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