Kristoffer Klaesson Premier League debut leaves Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch with one key question for visit of Southampton

Leeds United fans had mixed feelings as Illan Meslier came off for Kristoffer Klaesson in the 53rd minute of the Whites' 3-2 victory over Wolves at Molineux.

By Flora Snelson
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 4:52 pm

The injured Frenchman looked utterly dazzled by the body blow taken at full pelt from Raúl Jiménez.

There was delight that the playing field was levelled by the dismissal of Jiménez as Wolves joined Leeds in losing one of their most reliable performers.

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There was a relief that concussion protocols allowed Jesse Marsch an extra substitute after Mateusz Klich departed with an egg for a cheek in the first half, and hope that the one-man advantage might help Leeds prise a result from the hosts who were two goals to the good.

But there was also a nagging anxiety that Wolves might well increase their advantage, seeing the relative inexperience of the 21-year-old 'keeper now stood in net.

Since arriving at Thorp Arch last summer, Klaesson has not earned yet himself a respectable reputation among avid Under 23s followers, who have shaken their heads watching the Norwegian make rather more unforced errors than would be preferred by a young shot-stopper hoping to establish himself.

But if the fans in the Molineux stands were in any doubt, none of it touched Klaesson as he strode confidently onto the pitch to make his Premier League debut.

Leeds United 'keeper Kristoffer Klaesson. Pic: James Baylis.

This is the plight of reserve 'keepers. While outfield youngsters might have an inkling of an upcoming debut, goalies must always be primed and ready but are unlikely to be called upon save in exceptional circumstances.

Klaesson had spent no less than forty three and a half hours watching Leeds in Premier League action from the dugouts this season. When he was summoned to step up to the plate in the midst of a crisis in the Midlands, it looked as though he had been paying attention.

United's steamrollering response to Jiménez's dismissal saved Klaesson a lot of grief but, when called upon, he looked a few inches taller than the 'keeper whose name has unfortunately become associated with 'clangers' for the young Whites this season, standing up to shots and punching assertively clear from corners.

The Molineux faithful cheering with glee as the young 'keeper put a goal kick straight out for a throw can't have done Klaesson's confidence much good but his maturity shone through as he kept his head held high until the very end.

Leeds United 'keeper Illan Meslier. Pic: George Wood.

After Luke Ayling's stoppage-time goal put the cherry on top of the Whites' impressive comeback, the game was not yet wrapped up and Klaesson wowed fans by ensuring Leeds left Wolverhampton with all three points, pulling off an impressive pair of saves in quick succession to prevent Hwang Hee Chan and Francisco Trincão from levelling at the death.

If Alan Shearer terms your contribution 'world class', then your debut can't have been far off perfect - the experience will no doubt have left the youngster eager to prove himself again and get further Premier League minutes under his belt.

Though badly bruised, Meslier should be ready to play against Southampton on Saturday. So who does Jesse Marsch favour?

Marsch arrived at Elland Road with a reputation for bringing on young players so you can imagine he might be inclined to use Klaesson's Wolves performance to launch him into a new stage of his development. There'll be a temptation, too, to use the youngster's understudy performance to encourage Meslier - who is only one year Klaesson's senior - to raise his own game.

Kristoffer Klaesson punches the ball clear during Leeds United's 3-2 victory over Wolves. Pic: Naomi Baker.

The recurrence of Patrick Bamford's foot issue will be lingering in Marsch's mind as well. For all Marsch's intentions of being cautious with player's returns, it seems all too clear that the striker might have been better off taking it steady rather than being thrown into the starting line up against Wolves. Will the Bamford crisis cause Marsch to reconsider his approach to returning players?

Though things are looking brighter for the Whites at the bottom of the table, the Southampton game remains a vital game in United's fight for Premier League survival, with a very real chance to take three points from a struggling side in front of an Elland Road crowd bouncing from the joy of back to back wins.

Though Klaesson's Molineux heroics point toward a bright future for the player, and will surely allow Whites fans to breathe a little easier next time the Whites' number one goes down under a heavy challenge, Leeds still need all the experience they can get as they attack the final stretch of their relegation fight - let Meslier keep the gloves.

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