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Luciano Becchio seals opening win for Leeds United
4:36pm Sunday 19th August 2012 in Leeds
Leeds 1, Wolves 0
Leeds boss Neil Warnock kicked off his bid for an eighth career promotion with victory as his side made a winning start to a season for the first time since they beat Exeter in 2009.
Luciano Becchio’s 18th-minute diving header sealed maximum points for a new-look United side sporting eight league debutants for the club.
That statistic was maintained when the injured Paul Green was replaced by El Hadji Diouf just before the break.
Yet Warnock saw his side dominate for an hour, albeit with just the one goal to show for it.
Ross McCormack was the provider, racing free down the left on to new keeper Paddy Kenny’s raking clearance and whipping in a cross that skipped across goal and found an unmarked Becchio at the back post.
Leeds struggled to maintain their shape in the second half and although Wolves did not create a clear-cut chance, the hosts were glad of the final whistle.
Warnock said: “They deserve a lot of credit. We have a few niggles around the place and when you looked at our players and theirs, we were half the size of them, so we’ve done well.
“You have to do what we did. The Championship is obviously a different league to the top level.
“The players loved the atmosphere and playing in front of a big crowd. That was something I didn’t think we had about us last year.”
Leeds lost a club record 11 home games last season and Warnock, who took over from Simon Grayson in February, spent most of the second half of the season promising opposition managers they would never again encounter one of his sides that was so bad.
The way his new crop began certainly indicated he would be true to his word, with Leeds doing all the running and, at large, creating most of the chances.
Six minutes had gone when Luke Varney skewed over after McCormack pulled the ball back for him, before Rodolph Austin had a header blocked on the line and rookie right back Sam Byram shot wide at the end of a long goalmouth melee.
Wolves were moderately threatening in the air and Richard Stearman’s header looked as though it could trouble Kenny until team-mate Sylvan Ebanks-Blake blocked it with his arm.
Less than 60 seconds later, Leeds were ahead as Argentinian striker Becchio made the most of some slack marking.
After a frenetic start a period of calm followed, although Warnock had something to think about when Green limped two minutes before the break to be replaced by Diouf.
Wolves had held a high defensive line throughout the opening half and seemed determined to carry on doing so in the second, although it should have cost them another goal with 53 minutes gone but Varney’s touch evaded him as he broke clear.
Varney was not the only player to show early-season rustiness though, with Wolves debutant Slavomir Peszko’s cross finding no-one after Aidy White’s slip allowed him to break in to the Leeds box.
The introduction of Peszko did pep Wolves up and they started to enjoy more of the ball as a result of his presence, even if it was without hurting Leeds too much.
They had two chances when Ebanks-Blake skinned White and was dragged back on the edge of the box and when Matt Jarvis clipped a shot across goal but their poor start had left them up against it and Leeds saw the game out.