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Leeds: Rodrigo was “brilliant” vs Wolves

Trepidation has been rife at Leeds United this term, with last season’s success in staving off the threat of Premier League relegation not exactly being used as a positive foundation for this term, given that the lurking danger of the drop threatens to engulf the prestigious outfit once more.

Javi Gracia replaced the dismissed Jesse Marsch in the managerial position in February and got off to a resounding start after defeating relegation rivals Southampton, and he has now claimed a second vital victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.

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Now holding just one defeat – away against Chelsea – in his four league outings with the Whites, Gracia will be delighted with how his outfit blitzed into a 3-0 lead shortly after the hour mark against Wolves, though faltering in their defensive duties and seeing the home side reduce the deficit to just one goal in the second half.

With tension at the fore, the Old Gold’s Jonny Otto received a red card in the latter phase of the affair for a reckless challenge on Luke Ayling with just over five minutes on the clock.

In the dying embers, Spanish talisman Rodrigo capitalised on the numerical advantage and found space in the central channel, breaking free and chipping the hapless Jose Sa to cement the win and elevate Leeds to 14th in the table.

Was Rodrigo “brilliant” vs Wolves?

Rodrigo had been sidelined for six successive league matches until returning from the bench during last week’s draw against Brighton & Hove Albion, but this time around, his exploits were far more fruitful.

The strike in Wolverhampton takes the 32-year-old’s seasonal tally to 13, having played 24 matches across all competitions; given Leeds’ discernible lack of effective firepower recently, his return could not come as a more auspicious time.

As per Sofascore, the £100k-per-week phenom earned a 7.3 match rating for his 23-minute cameo, complementing his classy finish with two tackles and succeeding in five of his six duels, making 19 touches.

On top of his striking prowess, this level of robustness is exactly what Gracia needs from the collective squad to prevent a plummet into the second tier, with Rodrigo ranking among the top 11% of forwards across Europe’s big five leagues for clearances per 90, as per FBref.

Soccer Football - FA Cup Third Round - Cardiff City v Leeds United - Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - January 8, 2023 Leeds United's Rodrigo celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Hailed for his “brilliant” match-sealing strike by Phil Hay, the veteran forward indeed returns to the fold at the perfect time, with Leeds now putting two points between themselves and the bottom three, having languished in danger only at the start of the day.

Jack Harrison grabbed a goal and assist against the Seagulls previously, and appears to have found his shooting boots with another goal today, his third strike of the league term, but it will certainly be the return to scoring form for Rodrigo that will be the most melodious tune for Gracia, with no other United player finding the back of the net more than four times across all competitions.

And with his shooting boots still very much tightly equipped, the odds might have just swayed in the favour of Gracia’s outfit, hinting at a return to a vibrant-hued purple patch.

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