Wolves 4 Leeds United 1 – Report and pictures
Wolves went four points clear at the top of the Championship with a resounding victory over Leeds.
Barry Douglas gave Wolves an early lead with a stunning free kick and Ivan Cavaleiro ended a flowing team move with a great finish to make it 2-0.
Leeds pulled a goal back just after half time but then a red card to Ronaldo Vieira saw Wolves take charge again.
Diogo Jota chipped in a third and then substitute Helder Costa added a fourth for a comfortable win.
They turned on the Christmas lights in Wolverhampton tonight – and Wolves lit up Molineux with a resounding and at times breathtaking performance.
The two games between these clubs last year had serious ramifications.
Days after Leeds' 1-0 win at Molineux Walter Zenga was sacked, while Wolves' win at Elland Road put a huge dent in Leeds' play-off hopes, writes Tim Spiers at Molineux.
This victory won't have the consequences of those matches, but in its own small way it will carry importance for a number of reasons, not least for the fact that at 2-1 up Wolves looked a little fragile – before duly taking advantage of a Leeds red card to ram home their dominance.
In front of a huge Molineux midweek crowd of almost 29,000 – the biggest midweek gate here since 2004 – Wolves turned on the gas.
At times in the first half they toyed with Leeds like a lion pawing at a helpless, injured stoat. It almost seemed unfair on the visitors, who were clueless as how to quell the onslaught of delicious football Wolves were producing.
It felt like it should have been for an adult audience only. And following a brief spell after half time when Leeds scored and briefly threatened an unlikely comeback, Wolves ramped it up again and scored twice in four minutes to seal the points in style.
Only once this season have Wolves scored first and not gone on to win and aside from that short Leeds spell it was one-way traffic.
A number of players impressed – Ivan Cavaleiro was majestic, Ruben Neves imperious and Barry Douglas continued his brilliant form with a goal to add to his three assist in his last three appearances.
But all over the pitch Wolves were a class above a team that began the evening in seventh place.
It's been said before and it'll undoubtedly be said again – Wolves are going to take some stopping.
Nuno made one change from the team that beat Reading 2-0 and it was an expected one, with the suspension-free Barry Douglas replacing Ruben Vinagre who dropped out of the squad.
Leeds had a familiar face in goal in the form of Andy Lonergan, who played 14 times for Wolves last season before moving to Elland Road in the summer.
The visitors impressively beat Middlesbrough on Saturday but Wolves came into this game on the back of three successive 2-0 wins and they were simply too good for the Yorkshire side in a dominant first half performance.
For a spell of around 20 minutes Wolves were almost unplayable – they breathtakingly caressed the ball around the Leeds half at considerable pace and with spellbinding movement.
Puppet master Ruben Neves pulled the strings and Ivan Cavaleiro had the beating of defenders at will, showcasing his immense technique with a display of sheer confidence and skill.
The only downside was they had just a two-goal lead to show for their dominance. Goals came from Barry Douglas, who whipped a free kick past Lonergan at his near post from the right of the box (from almost the exact position he'd teed up Bonatini's header against Fulham) and the on-fire Cavaleiro.
The Portuguese's goal was a thing of beauty. Bonatini set the rampaging Matt Doherty free – he played to Cavaleiro who gorgeously turned his man and fired past Lonergan from the edge of the box.
Minutes later he nearly scored another when played in by Jota, deliciously prodding goalwards but just wide, while Bonatini had almost netted when Cavaleiro turned provider to cross towards the near post.
It was dreamy football from Nuno's Wolves, who are quite something to witness when they're in this mood.
The home fans were giving it the 'ole' from the half hour mark before singing "West Bromwich Albion, we're coming for you". On this showing Wolves will be aiming higher than that.
They kindly let Leeds have the ball for a spell towards half time but aside from a couple of regulation parries John Ruddy wasn't troubled and Wolves were rightly given a rousing ovation as the half time whistle blew.
It was set up to be a procession in the second half – but Leeds blew the game wide open from nowhere just three minutes after the break.
It had some competition but Ezgjan Alioski's rocket of a first-time volley from a floated Samuel Saiz pass was the goal of the game and shocked the packed home crowd.
It shocked the team too. Wolves hadn't conceded for 326 minutes and now they couldn't string two passes together, with Leeds enjoying their best spell of the game.
Then, just as it looked like we had a real game on our hands, an act of utter stupidity from Ronaldo Vieira handed Wolves the initiative when he was given a second yellow card for foolishly lunging in on Jota, who had done brilliantly to race back into his own half to win possession.
Their confidence grew again and Douglas, after some divine interplay with Jota, fired across goal and Doherty's effort was blocked at the back stick.
On came Helder Costa in place of Cavaleiro and the winger injected yet more life into Wolves' play, beating a defender with some wonderful football as he picked up where he left off at the Madejski on Saturday.
It was all Wolves again – and they went in for the kill to finish the contest with two goals in four minutes. First Jota fabulously dinked over Lonergan after Bonatini played him in and then Costa scored his first goal since April from the penalty spot after the keeper had fouled Bonatini.
The final minutes were indeed a procession.
15 – GOAL – BARRY DOUGLAS hammers a free kick from the right of the box past Andy Lonergan at his near post.
26 – GOAL – Leo Bonatini sprays to Matt Doherty who plays to IVAN CAVALEIRO on the edge of the box – he beautifully spins his man and beats Lonergan from 18 yards.
48 – GOAL – Samuel Saiz floats into the box from the left wing and EZGJAN ALIOSKI smashes a rasping first-time volley past Ruddy.
60 – Leeds are reduced to 10 men when Ronaldo Vieira lunges in on Diogo Jota and earns a second booking.
72 – GOAL – Bonatini heads through for DIOGO JOTA who beats the onrushing Lonergan with a sublime dinked finish.
76 – GOAL – Bonatini looks to go round Lonergan and the keeper brings him down. HELDER COSTA steps up and beats the keeper with his spot kick.
Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty, Saiss (N'Diaye, 80), Neves (Price, 80), Douglas; Cavaleiro (Costa, 69), Bonatini, Jota. Subs: Norris, Batth, Miranda, Enobakhare.
Goals: Douglas (15), Cavaleiro (26), Jota (72), Costa (pen, 76)
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Ayling, Cooper (c), Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, Phillips; Hernandez (O'Kane, 69), Alioski, Saiz (Dallas, 77); Roofe (Ekuban, 69). Subs: Wiedwald, Pennington, Anita, Shaughnessy.
Goals: Alioski (48)
Red card: Vieira (60)
Attendance: 28,914 (2,382 Leeds fans)
Referee: Geoffrey Eltringham (County Durham)
1st (41 points from 18 matches)