JR writes in: “Ait-Nouri was actually booked for a blatant dive in the middle of the field just a little before he fouled Albrighton. It’s not that big a deal that you missed that but I just like to make sure divers get the discredit they deserve.” Quite right – I stand corrected.
Half-time: Wolves 1-1 Leicester
Good fun, that. And with neither side likely to want to settle for a point, we can expect more of the same second half. Get the kettle on!
45 mins: Leicester muck up a great counterattacking situation – it’s three on three with Tielemanscarrying the ball forward, but his this time his through-ball isn’t quite on the money. He underhits the pass to Lookman, allowing Sededo to cut it out.
Goal! Wolves 1-1 Leicester (Lookman 41)
Leicester draw level and it’s a gem of a pass from Tielemans that creates the goal. He picks up the ball on the edge of the box, waits a beat, then slides a perfect through-ball into the path of the onrushing Albrighton, whose first time cross is turned in from close range by Lookman. Tielemans won’t get the goal, nor the assist, but technicalities aside, that goal is all his.
38 mins: Semedo fouls Lookman. Lookman falls over. Podence belts the ball at Lookman. Lookman shoves Podence. Podence falls over. Yellow cards all round.
36 mins: Another Wolves corner from the right, another mini-panic in the Leicester area. Moutinho’s delivery pinballs between defenders before Jimenez drags a snapshot wide. Albrighton is booked retrospectively for a late lunge on Jimenez.
34 mins: Leicester are turning the screw. Another forward rove from Dewsbury-Hall wins a corner, which Tielemans delivers right under the keeper’s crossbar, but the ball gets no killer touch and Wolves hoof it away.
31 mins: Ait-Nouri is next into the book, clattering Albrighton on Leicester’s right. The resulting free-kick is swung into the back post where Lookman brings it down well but scuffs his left-foot shot, which trickles across the six-yard box and out for a goal-kick.
29 mins: Nélson Semedo gathers the ball in his own half, steams past Dewsbury-Hall on the halfway line and is promptly taken out by an unrepentant Soyuncu. Booking.
26 mins: Nice give-and-go between Dewsbury-Hall and Lookman, with the midfielder gliding into the box to deliver a low cutback that Coady clears behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.
24 mins: Moutinho delivers another deep corner from the right, which bobbles around in the Leicester box before Podence takes control of the ball on the left, leaving Tielemans for dead with an exquisite Cruyff turn and squaring for Aït-Nouri, who hits his left-foot shot perfectly and sends the ball millimetres wide.
21 mins: Not for the first time this game, Aït-Nouri takes it upon himself to make up some ground for Wolves, bringing down a tricky ball and slaloming into Leicester territory before being brought down for a free-kick. Good, positive play.
18 mins: Moutinho’s deep corner is met by Jimenez, whose downward header is straight at a grateful Schmeichel.
17 mins: More possession from Leicester, who are nice and unhurried, Ricardo and Albrighton exchanging passes on the right before the latter lifts in a cross to Lookman, who is crowded out of it in the box. Wolves counter instantly through Podence, who scampers into the Leicester box and win a corner after his shot is blocked.
14 mins: Leicester’s first sustained spell of possession is a good one, the midfield trio linking nicely and pulling Wolves’ defenders around before Tielemans unleashes a firmly hit shot from distance. Sa keeps it out, and it’s not long before Daka rattles in a long-ranger which is again matched by Sa. Good response from Leicester.
12 mins: That’s exactly what Leicester will not have wanted. The onus is now on them to break down a side who are at their happiest sitting back and soaking up pressure. On the flip side, they have the whole game to do so – a test of Leicester’s mettle.
Goal! Wolves 1-0 Leicester (Neves 9)
It’s a Ruben Neves special! And it’s the midfielder who starts the attack, picking out Podence with a glorious diagonal from the centre circle. The winger’s cross from the left is cut out by Amartey but Leicester fail to properly clear and when Jimenez lays the ball off to Neves on the edge of the box there’s only one outcome. His shot is belted right-footed past Schmeichel, who pain is only compounded by the fact he gets a hand to it.
7 mins: Wolves break quickly with Podence picking out Dendocker on the right. He scuttles forward and tries to pick out Jimenez who is peeling away at the far post, but an alert Ricardo slides across to clear. Smart defending.
5 mins: Wolves win the game’s first corner and Moutinho’s inswinging ball isn’t bad but Leicester clear comfortably.
3 mins: Leicester acquaint themselves with the ball before Soyuncu pings a raking pass to Lookman, who drifts in from the left and picks out Tielemans who is arriving into the box bang on time. The layoff is perfect for the Belgian, but he sidefoots timidly wide from 15 yards – poor, really. A good chance wasted
Dean Kinsella tempts fate via email: “Between the trans-pennine battle earlier and the north/south encounter at the Etihad yesterday we’ve been royally entertained this weekend. No pressure on keeping the level up here today!”
1 min: Both sides take the knee before kickoff, and then we’re away. Wolves ping the ball about between their defence for a bit before Aït-Nouri strides upfield into the Leicester half and gets a throw for his troubles.
A bit of a clash of styles today. Attack v defence. Grit v flair. Patience v haste. Michael Haneke v Michael Bay. HBO v ITV. James Joyce v John Grisham. Who’s your money on?
Rodgers says Harvey Barnes is not involved today because he’s carrying a knock from Thursday. The weather at Molineux is wet and windswept – which often means the football can be fun and frenzied. Here’s hoping.
And another must-read preview from Jonathan Wilson, on Brendan Rodgers’ need to arrest the slump:
Some fascinating pre-match reading, on the fraternal alliance fuelling Wolves’ rise up the table:
The final whistle has gone at Elland Road, where Manchester United have won a very tasty derby-not-derby. More here:
So Wolves make one change from last week’s smash-and-grab defeat of Spurs, the fit-again Joao Moutinho coming in for Luke Cundle in midfield. For Leicester, James Maddison is only fit enough for the bench after a bout of illness and Patson Daka keeps his place ahead of Kelechi Iheanacho after his goalscoring display in Europe on Thursday.
Cundle was great last week but Moutinho’s return adds know-how to a strong-looking Wolves engine room. Leicester’s midfield is not short of quality either, of course, but lots will depend on whether Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall can step up alongside Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi in Leicester’s attempts to raise the game’s tempo.
Brendan Rodgers once said that management is like “trying to build an aircraft while it’s in flight”. Should Leicester’s recent form continue for much longer, he may soon be stranded on a desert island whittling a life-raft for his coaching career.
Perhaps that’s overstating the case a bit – Rodgers’ pedigree remains high – but his third season at Leicester has been an object lesson in how quickly an ostensibly excellent team can hit the skids. His previously freewheeling FA Cup holders have won just seven Premier League games all season, amassed 13 points since the start of November and are currently winless in four. Any hopes of retaining their FA Cup went extinguished with last month’s tonking by their Midlands rivals.
Much of the blame for this tailspin can be placed on a backline responsible for the worst defensive record outside the bottom seven. And should Rodgers be in the markets for advice on the matter, he could do a lot worse than consult his opposite number today.
If Bruno Lage’s Wolves have gone relatively unnoticed, it’s because they have not quickened the pulses of too many neutrals. They score very few goals and they concede even fewer. No one will ever describe them as freewheeling. But right now, having flown for much of the season under the radar, Lage’s sensibly constructed aircraft is climbing with steady resolve. Three points today would lift them above Spurs and, when games in hand are accounted for, confirm their place in the annual mad dash for the top four.
Leicester can entertain no such ambitions for now. They need a win to boost morale and to quieten the growing whispers about Rodgers’ three-year life cycle. But Thursday’s hammering of Randers was a reminder that this side is not short of flair, finesse or goals. If they can show that today, at the home of the Premier League’s foremost asphyxiators, then the Rodgers project will remain airborne and the turbulence becalmed … for now. Stay tuned!