Brenden Aaronson’s only disappointment from his Premier League debut is that he will not be attributed with the winner, not that he will accept it was an own goal. Jesse Marsch made the American his first Leeds signing, getting his compatriot to join six days after they scraped Premier League survival.
The forward showed everything that the new Leeds should be with his relentless work off the ball and skill on it before essentially forcing Rayan Aït-Nouri to put the ball into his own net. The relief of survival at Elland Road has been replaced by hope of progress in an American revolution.
Leeds are far from being a finished product under Marsch’s leadership but that they were able to battle back from going a goal behind and did not concede a second when under intense pressure will be all important for a team who won three times at home last season.
Aaronson was the livewire who set the tempo for his new teammates, offering the intensity demanded by Marsch. The head coach, who was appointed in February, enjoyed a full pre-season with his squad and brought in the players who can fit into his 4-2-2-2 system.
“I am really pleased we look like a team that understands what the tactics and ideas are with the ball much better than what we were last year, that was a big struggle to try to implement tactically what we wanted to achieve,” he said.
“We still have a lot of work to do. The three points validate the pre-season we’ve had and the work that we’ve done.”
One of those summer signings, Rasmus Kristensen, was welcomed to the Premier League in the sixth minute when he was shouldered off the ball by Pedro Neto, allowing the Portuguese to cross to the back post for Hwang Hee-chan to head into the path of Daniel Podence to acrobatically mis-hit the ball into the ground and beyond Illan Meslier via the crossbar.
A boisterous crowd was eventually reflected on the pitch as Leeds’s attacking players started to pass and move at pace. Aaronson’s deflected shot went inches wide to give a glimpse of his quality. The fans were being fired up by Leeds’ improvement and Wolves’ melodrama, further agitated when goalkeeper José Sá clattered into Kristensen inside the box without getting close to the ball. The referee, Robert Jones, and those with access to a replay strangely thought it was not worth punishing.
“After the ball was gone Rasmus was taken out,” Marsch said. “It should have been a penalty.”
Wolves somehow managed to fit in three mistakes within seconds to allow Leeds to equalise. First Aït-Nouri was tackled when trying to execute a 180 degree turn, before Rúben Neves’ clearance was blocked, allowing Rodrigo to pick up the pieces and thrash the ball under Sá from an acute angle.
One key Leeds absentee for much of last season was Patrick Bamford, who showed his importance to the team when he spun to get into the box and deliver a perfect low cross, resulting in Aït-Nouri jabbing the ball into his own net under pressure from Aaronson but the American will be hoping to claim it.
“Brenden had a good performance,” Marsch said. “He was active, lively and dangerous all match.”
Bamford and Aaronson were replaced with fewer than 10 minutes to go and rightly received a standing ovation. Marsch and Leeds fans will be hoping – and even be a little optimistic – that it will not be the last time that duo will get them off their seats this season.
Even if the score box says different, Aaronson thinks his debut was perfect. “I touched it, I was in there, and it came off my shins somewhere in there,” he said. “I am taking credit for it.”
Marsch, knowing the significance of a winning start, went for a lap of honour after the final whistle when he shared an angry exchange with his Wolves counterpart.
“There was a point in the first half that I heard something that I didn’t like,” Bruno Lage said. “It is my opinion that there are some things that you cannot say. When he came to speak to me at the end I said there are some things you just cannot say.”