Match Report: Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Leeds United - Attacking Wizardry Yields Fruit for Clinical Leeds
Monday, 7th Aug 2017 00:26 by @LucasMonk_
In a frenetic first competitive match at the helm of Leeds United, recently-installed head coach Thomas Christiansen was able to savour a most satisfactory debut victory on Sunday afternoon - as United saw off the challenge of newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium.
Felix Wiedwald, Conor Shaughnessy, Matthew Pennington, Ezgjan Alioski and Vurnon Anita all had the honour of Leeds United debuts conferred upon them in an enthralling match that saw no less than five goals.
Despite injuries to defenders Pennington and Gaetano Berardi, Leeds United claimed victory in head coach Thomas Christiansen's inaugural outing in English football by recording a hard-fought 3-2 success over Bolton Wanderers. The highlight of the match was, without doubt, a brace on the part of midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who most recently signed a new four-year contract at Elland Road.
In consequence of the result, United (for the time being) have been elevated to third place in the Championship table ahead of their first home match of the season - against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening.
Bolton Wanderers (5-3-2) - Howard; Darby (Armstrong 84'), Dervite, Wheater (Burke 53'), Beevers, Taylor; Vela, Cullen, Karacan (Buckley 64'); Le Fondre, Madine.
Unused Substitutes: Alnwick, Derik, Robinson, Wilbraham.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Pennington (Shaughnessy 64'), Cooper, Berardi (Anita 38'); O'Kane, Phillips; Roofe, Hernandez, Alioski (Sacko 85'); Wood.
Unused Substitutes: Green, Klich, Saiz, Ekuban.
In the knowledge that a sprightly start to the season is of crucial importance if they are to mount a concerted assault upon the division's uppermost reaches this season, Leeds showed great haste in seeking to gain the upper hand in the match's early minutes.
The hosts, who are widely anticipated to be amongst those battling doggedly for survival in this campaign, attempted to muster a stoic response to the early setback that was Phillips' resplendent effort. On 18 minutes, Adam Le Fondre received possession inside the United penalty area prior to turning on a sixpence and firing a low, curling effort into the palms of visiting 'keeper Felix Wiedwald.
Wanderers displayed not a single sign of relenting in their application of attacking pressure as they pursued an equalising goal; but in lieu of restoring parity, the home supporters could only look on in horror as - against the run of play at this juncture - a Kemar Roofe cross from the left channel was flicked on by Ezgjan Alioski in the 30th minute. Chris Wood, the division's most prolific player last season having rattled in a commendable total of 27 goals, then promptly converted the opportunity with a header of his own to compile further misery upon their newly-promoted opposition.
The hosts continued to play as robustly and directly as they had done before Wood doubled the lead of the visitors - and were rewarded in the 39th minute of the match.
After Gaetano Berardi left the field on a stretcher after sustaining an injury, Wanderers, to the tangible excitement of their crowd, won a corner. Josh Vela's laser-guided delivery was met by target-man Gary Madine in an emphatic manner, with the former Sheffield Wednesday striker heading past United 'keeper Wiedwald from close proximity.
The goal instilled within the hosts an ephemeral hope that lasted a mere three minutes. With their third attempt of the match, Leeds netted their third goal of the day. An incisive through-ball on Hernandez's part found Wood, who selflessly squared for Phillips to allow the midfielder to score his second goal of the match.
Due to the earlier injury that had been suffered by Berardi, seven minutes of injury time were added on at the half's end. In the first of those, Macedonian winger Ezgjan Alioski came excruciatingly close to marking his first appearance in English football with a goal; the former Lugano talisman could only fire innocuously over the crossbar after a driven cross from Roofe on the right channel.
A minute would pass before Bolton's Le Fondre would chance his arm at goal for a second time. The nomadic forward, formerly of Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading, fired toward goal from distance only to see his wild effort fly considerably wide of the mark.
Half-Time: Bolton Wanderers 1-3 Leeds United - Phillips (7', 42'), Wood (30').
There were no substitutions of note for either side during the interval and so the teams emerged from the tunnel unchanged.
United were keen to begin the second period as they had done the first. Roofe hurtled up the Bolton right before crossing low, only for Alioski to be denied from an acute angle.
From that moment onward, Leeds would retain possession with an assured confidence - a quality often present in the style of teams pursuing promotion to the Premier League and the embarassment of riches that follow it. But when Matthew Pennington, who had performed stoutly alongside captain Liam Cooper at the heart of the United rearguard, suffered an ankle ailment in the 64th minute, Leeds were somewhat derailed.
Such was the severity of the injury, Pennington had to leave the field of play with a central midfielder - Conor Shaughnessy - called into his place. Within two minutes of the ineluctable substitution having taken place, the home side, who had struggled to make inroads of any kind into the visiting half since the interval, were awarded a penalty-kick. Shaughnessy's conspicuous grasp on the shirt of Madine was observed intently by referee Simon Hooper, and Le Fondre thundered the ball into the centre of the opposing goal with 'keeper Wiedwald hapless.
Leeds would respond admirably, with Hernandez seeing a consummate effort rattling the aluminium of the crossbar less than a minute after Wanderers halved the deficit.
The game's remainder saw United's decimated defensive ranks inundated with innumerable lofted balls on the part of their opponents and for all the diligence of the hosts, they would not create a clear-cut opportunity of any kind - Leeds would hold on for their first victory on the opening weekend since 2013.
Full-Time: Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Leeds United - Phillips (7', 42'), Wood (30').
Match Statistics (Bolton / Leeds)
Attempts: 10 / 12
On Target: 4 / 5
Corners: 6 / 8
Pass Completion: 70% / 83%
Aerial Duels: 70% / 30%
Tackles: 15 / 19
Fouls: 9 / 14
Possession: 47% / 53%
Man of the Match: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds).
Booked: Will Buckley (Bolton).
Venue: Macron Stadium
Attendance: 19, 857
Referee: Simon Hooper
A wholly frenzied encounter, and a match typical of the Championship - a division that has come to bear a reputation for being among the most competitive leagues in the world. The result represents a most wonderful outcome for Thomas Christiansen and his charges ahead of Wednesday evening's visit of Port Vale in the Carabao Cup.
This was a battle of two markedly contrasting styles: a captivating contest between the functional, direct methods of newly-promoted Bolton and the more expansive and venturesome approach of a Leeds side that have undergone a remarkable transmogrification. For the first time in aeons, United appear a club that is operated with pragmatism and rationality with a particular emphasis on forging a long-term vision of the side's future. It certainly makes for a pleasant change; Leeds had previously been the mere plaything of a tyrant whose departure may well have paved the way for a remarkable success this season.
Though several of United's recent acquisitions enjoyed definitively competent debuts - in particular, Matthew Pennington shone in his role at the heart of the Leeds back-four - it was the performance of Kalvin Phillips that, quite rightly, caught the eye. The 21 year-old has divided opinion among supporters for a considerable time now, but today silenced his critics with a superlative performance that included two well-taken goals without which Leeds would not have won the match.
Victory is a most welcome prize for Christiansen and the management at large, but there remain 45 matches and 135 points for which to play. While the season is, at present, young, it seems to this faithful scribe that the unbridled optimism among United fans at this time could well be in order. Of course, much of said optimism could well be extinguished if Wednesday's reunion with Michael Brown sours - but for now, there is cause for celebration; a polished performance, three goals and three points. All courtesy of resilience in the game's latter stages and attacking aptitude in the first-half. How often is it that such sentences can be written about Leeds?
Photo: Action Images
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