|Norwich City v Leeds United|
Saturday, 29th April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Leeds United 3-3 Norwich City - Much of Which to Be Proud
Saturday, 29th Apr 2017 23:28 by @LucasMonk_
In their final home fixture of the 2016/17 season, and in a match as every bit frenetic as the EFL Cup match between the two sides last year, Leeds United produced an enthralling fightback to eradicate a 3-0 deficit against Norwich City. And though the Whites would see their aspirations of securing a play-off berth come the campaign’s end evaporate in consequence, there remains much of which the club can be justly proud with regard to the 2016-17 season.
Garry Monk’s charges entered this contest in the knowledge that they possessed only a meagre chance of reclaiming 6th position; with the Whites required to win both of their remaining fixtures while also yearning for disaster to befall Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham in order to hand them the greatest chance of securing play-off qualification.
For the hosts, the opening 45 minutes could only be described as an unmitigated catastrophe. Opponents Norwich (who have this season disheartened their expectant supporters by failing to produce superlative performances on a consistent basis), had established a 3-0 lead courtesy of a sumptuous Steven Naismith goal, coupled with a brace on the part of Nelson Oliveira.
But at the moment at which Oliveira netted the 15th goal of his third season in English football, the plague of complacence proceeded to afflict the visitors. Though unquestionably rueful, the Leeds United players mounted a response apace, with the talismanic Chris Wood scoring his 29th goal of the season shortly before the half-time interval.
For Alan Irvine’s men, that goal was to foreshadow the events that were to follow. The visitors saw their advantage erased in the second-half, when further contributions from defender Kyle Bartley and cultured playmaker Pablo Hernandez in the 49th and 78th minute respectively ensured that Leeds completed a remarkable comeback.
While the second-half heroics of those clad in United’s traditional all-white strip would prove to be to no avail, with a play-off place now all but beyond their grasp (due to 6th-placed Fulham’s vastly superior goal difference), this season has seen a marked renaissance in the fortunes of the West Yorkshire club and thus should augur well for the forthcoming 2017/18 campaign.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Green; Ayling (Pedraza 72’), Bartley, Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, O’Kane (Phillips 82’); Roofe, Hernandez, Dallas (Doukara 62’); Wood.
Unused Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Taylor, Sacko.
Norwich City (4-2-3-1) - Ruddy; Pinto, Bennett, Martin, Dijks; Dorrans, Howson; Naismith, Pritchard, Murphy (Klose 90+3’); Oliveira (Jerome 83’).
Unused Substitutes: Jones, Whittaker, Murphy, Maddison, Wildschut.
It would be the visiting side Norwich who would begin proceedings, with Leeds shooting toward the South Stand for the first period.
With zilch but pride for which to play, the fact that Norwich City were thus enabled to play with a greater freedom than in recent months became more apparent as the first-half wore on. The consequence? Their establishment of a slender advantage on 28 minutes. And as Steven Naismith’s wondrous strike from all of 25 yards sailed into the back of the net, United hearts concurrently sank.
Naismith’s 5th Championship goal of the season was to prove a catalyst for the visitors to inflict further anguish upon their opponents. The vast majority of those present within the stands at Elland Road had not yet finished lamenting the Scotsman’s opening goal when Nelson Oliveira curled a well-struck effort marginally wide of the mark only moments later.
In spite of that miss, Leeds would be ruthlessly punished in the match’s 34th minute when Joshua Murphy scampered away from a forlorn home rearguard before selflessly squaring the ball for Oliveira, who gleefully converted the opportunity.
11 minutes would pass before Oliveira netted his second of the match to ostensibly put the game beyond the hosts. The former Benfica striker led Pontus Jansson and Gaetano Berardi a merry dance, before firing a swerving effort into the top-right corner with a considerable degree of composure and self-assurance.
As many United fans elected to flock from their seats to the warmth of a half-time beverage with a great deal of alacrity, Chris Wood offered the hosts a minute glimmer of hope only moments after the third Norwich strike. Into the penalty area went a lofted ball from Stuart Dallas, one that was promptly converted by the prolific Wood, who manoeuvred well to evade his marker at the near-post in the half’s final act of note.
HT - Leeds United 1-3 Norwich City - Naismith 28’, Oliveira 34’ 45’. Wood 45+1’.
The disenchantment among supporters of the home side was perceptible. Though United’s chances of play-off qualification had already been dashed by last weekend’s pitiful defeat at the hands of Burton Albion, few expected a first-half capitulation of this manner.
As Norwich had kicked off the first period, it was the prerogative of the hosts to begin the second, now shooting in the direction of the Kop.
With only a mere three minutes of second-half play elapsed, United’s Pablo Hernandez would come excruciatingly close to further reducing the arrears. Having been played through by Eunan O’Kane, the Spaniard could only muster a feeble effort that bobbled wide.
A minute passed, before Leeds would register their second goal of the match. Following a Hernandez corner, a frenetic goalmouth scramble ensued before the ball was bundled home by Kyle Bartley from close proximity and to much celebration.
And with that, the ambience within the stadium was elevated by several decibels. Norwich had, by now, conspicuously been instructed to attempt to stifle the match and exasperate their counterparts. A spell of controlled, precise possession would follow, before Oliveira would be denied a hat-trick by a defiant Rob Green with the former England ‘keeper diving low to save his drilled effort.
With an hour played Eunan O’Kane, having enjoyed a stellar match, embarked upon a surging run into the final third before crossing for Kemar Roofe; whose volleyed effort was superbly saved by City stalwart John Ruddy.
Two minutes later, Alex Pritchard, one of few causes for good cheer for Norwich supporters this term, played full-back Ivo Pinto in on goal only for the Portuguese to be denied by Green.
In the 76th minute, the hosts were handed a grand opportunity to equalise when Gaetano Berardi was felled on the verge of the Norwich penalty area. A scuffle ensued between Berardi and Graham Dorrans of the Canaries, with yellow cards issued to both players for their roles in the melee.
Tasked with taking the set-piece, was Pablo Hernandez, the subject of much vituperative criticism in recent weeks. And did he take it. The Spaniard curled in a resplendent effort to restore parity in the scoreline.
Having mounted a commendable comeback, a fourth goal eluded the Whites, but their supporters could indulge in a little schadenfreude when Steven Naismith was shown a red card for an ill-timed challenge on Ronaldo Vieira.
Upon the blast of the full-time whistle, there was applause for the players as they ruefully plonked their bottoms onto the hallowed turf of Elland Road, as an eighth successive season in the second tier beckons.
FT - Leeds United 3-3 Norwich City - Naismith 28’, Oliveira 34’, 45’. Wood 45+1’, Bartley 49’, Hernandez 78’).
Man Of The Match
In what may have been his last appearance at Elland Road in the white of Leeds United, the towering Swansea loanee was once more imperious at the heart of Garry Monk’s central defence, while scoring his sixth goal of the season in the process.
Tackles Attempted: 6
Pass Success: 81%
Media: A forthcoming Leeds United head coach Garry Monk and an exasperated Norwich caretaker Alan Irvine
Garry Monk, speaking to the BBC:
“It's difficult to be critical of the group as we've said for so long how much they've given to the club."
"The reality is, the majority of the group were not quite ready for this situation. They were not ready. And that's not a criticism, it's just a fact."
"I have one more game left, I'll be focused on that. The club have said when they want to speak, I have to respect that.
"Even when that comes, it's us both agreeing on how we take this forward. I have my views and the club will have theirs. I have another game to go."
Alan Irvine, also speaking to the BBC:
"For 45 minutes we were outstanding. Then, in the 46th minute, we got sloppy, gave them a lifeline they didn't look like they were going to get.
"The players saw a different side of me at half-time. We had players out of position as they kicked off. It was unprofessional.
"My feeling is one of anger and frustration. We could have lost it, but we could have won it. We need to be ruthless in everything we do."
Match Statistics and Facts
Stats - (Leeds/Norwich)
Possession - 49% / 51%
Pass Success - 70% / 77%
Aerial Success - 31% / 69%
Shots - 16 / 16
On Target - 5 / 8
Tackles - 22 / 18
Fouls - 10 / 9
Corners - 4 / 2
Referee - Tony Harrington.
Booked - Jansson, Berardi (Leeds). Dorrans, Naismith (Red Card) (Norwich).
Attendance - 34,292.
A frenetic and enthralling end to what has been a memorable campaign, in spite of us relinquishing a play-off position after having one so firmly fixed in our grasp.
Credence must be given to Norwich, who scored a triad of superlative goals, and would most certainly have been in firm contention for promotion themselves if not for their porous defence and mental fragility.
There will doubtless be much invective abuse and opprobrium hurled in the direction of both Garry Monk and his players by some of our more… shall we say, capricious supporters.
But in marked contrast to them, I shall not berate those responsible for our highest league finish since the 2010-11 season. In lieu of disparaging the head coach, the staff, the players, who have made this campaign one to remember for benignant reasons, I shall rejoice in the fact that they have instilled pride back into this proud footballing institution and having confounded every expectation in doing so.
I would now urge the the club’s board to act briskly in addressing both the long-term future of our most salient assets (namely our head coach), by heeding the advice of Kyle Bartley. It is in my view a necessity for each and every Leeds United supporter to hear his impassioned interview with BBC Radio Leeds. One hopes that both Monk and he are retained, and that Bartley is installed as club captain for the forthcoming season, the achievements of which will surpass even those of this season if the board act in a seemly manner.
Though it may feel as though it has concluded, in this season one more fixture remains. Wigan Athletic, the relegation of whom was confirmed only today, at the DW Stadium. A victory for Leeds will mean that Garry Monk will have emerged victorious in exactly 50% of his league games at the helm since taking charge in June 2016. May we end on a positive note.
Photo: Action Images
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