Match Report: Leeds United 0-0 Fulham - Leeds Continue to Learn
Wednesday, 16th Aug 2017 08:17 by @LucasMonk_
In a match of few chances on a clear summer’s evening at Elland Road, Leeds United produced a better performance than they did in their prior outing against Preston North End - though the Whites were still, nonetheless, held to a goalless draw by Fulham.
On Tuesday evening, both Leeds United and Fulham will doubtless have harboured aspirations of victory ahead of this match. The hosts sought to pursue a win after the disappointment of Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Preston North End while Fulham, who had drawn 1-1 away to Reading in their most recent outing, were seeking a first league success of the new season.
Upon the last blast of the referee’s whistle, though, neither side had found the net - both teams registered just one effort on target each, with clear opportunities having been scarce throughout the contest. Nevertheless, to the eye of the beholder this was still an intriguing fixture; United and Fulham competed doggedly and, though no player on either side was to make a telling impact, supporters of both clubs will be able to find solace in particular aspects of their team’s display.
Fulham enjoyed a hegemony throughout the opening 20 minutes of the match, retaining possession masterfully with enviable composure and affirming their credentials as one of the most technically adroit teams in the division.
The visitors’ first opportunity of the game arose in the 11th minute; the ball fell in a benign manner to the feet of midfielder Stefan Johansen, who promptly struck a well-hit effort just wide of the mark.
A mere three minutes would elapse before the Cottagers created another opening, with Aboubakar Kamara - a powerful French forward acquired from Amiens in July - seeing a shot on his part from inside the penalty area diverted behind for a corner kick.
Slaviša Jokanović’s side refused to relent in their application of attacking pressure and were rather unfortunately denied an opening goal in the 20th minute. A rasping, venomous left-footed drive toward goal by combative midfielder Ibrahima Cissé from all of 25 yards cannoned off the aluminium of the post - after which, United’s Pontus Jansson cleared the ball to safety.
Thereafter, Leeds managed to claw their way back into the match after 20 minutes of pursuing shadows. The Whites fashioned the first clear-cut chance of the match on 31 minutes when a through ball on the part of Macedonian winger Ezgjan Alioski was seized upon by United’s talismanic striker, Chris Wood. Alas, the subsequent attempt of the New Zealand international will likely only serve to deter some of the interested parties reputedly vying for his signature; Wood attempted to lift the ball over the onrushing Fulham ‘keeper, David Button, only for the latter to make a good save to ensure that the game remained devoid of goals.
Wood would then have a goal contentiously disallowed by referee Darren Bond shortly before the half-time interval. A truly marvellous ball into the penalty area from Samu Sáiz was controlled well by the Auckland-born forward, who then promptly tucked the ball into the back of the net only for the offside flag to be raised - much to exasperation of approximately 28,000 Leeds fans.
The Whites made a sprightly start to the second period, with tough-tackling midfielder Kalvin Phillips seeing an effort from outside the penalty area deflected behind for a corner on 53 minutes. In the 65th minute, United goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald was called into action when Fulham’s Kamara scampered expeditiously after a through ball; the German attentively rushed toward his foe before executing an impeccably timed sliding challenge to avert the danger, eliciting audible applause from the home crowd.
Leeds would then come agonisingly close to the opening goal of the match. In a swift counterattack, Phillips charged upfield before finding the feet of Sáiz - the Spaniard did remarkably well to wriggle free of any defensive challenge before firing narrowly wide.
Shortly afterwards, Fulham’s Sone Aluko would then race through on goal with only United ‘keeper Wiedwald to outwit but the former Werder Bremen shot-stopper produced a strong save to prevent the visitors from establishing a slender advantage.
With the match nearing its conclusion, Fulham substitute Neeskens Kebano (who replaced Lucas Piazon in the first-half after the Chelsea loanee sustained an injury) skilfully surged into the United area. If not a fantastic last-ditch intervention from Conor Shaughnessy, the visitors most certainly would have opened the scoring with United having little time in which to muster a response.
Following the Irishman’s challenge, Leeds then launched a counterattack that culminated in the ball falling to Phillips inside the penalty area only for the midfielder to lash the ball wide with his weaker foot.
The final act of note came in the 90th minute when Kebano chanced his arm from range. Thankfully for United, the DR Congo international’s effort arced over the crossbar.
Applause greeted the final whistle with the supporters of both sides united in acknowledging the diligence displayed by the teams throughout the match. It was one that, despite being barren of goals, was contested in the correct manner.
Though Leeds had hoped to secure all three points, the result ensures that United remain undefeated under the tutelage of Thomas Christiansen and have risen to sixth position in the table - though there are divisional rivals such as Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday who will play their respective games in hand tonight.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Anita; Phillips, O’Kane; Alioski (Roofe 63’), Sáiz (Dallas 82’), Hernández; Wood.
Unused Substitutes: Green, Borthwick-Jackson, Bridcutt, Klich, Ekuban.
Fulham (4-3-3) - Button; Fredericks, Odoi, Ream, Sessegnon; Cissé, McDonald, Johansen; Aluko, Kamara (Norwood 77’), Piazon (Kebano 35’).
Unused Substitutes: Rodák, Djalo, S. Sessegnon, Edun, Woodrow.
Half-Time: Leeds United 0-0 Fulham
Full-Time: Leeds United 0-0 Fulham
Match Statistics (Leeds / Fulham)
Possession: 44% / 56%
Pass Success: 77% / 83%
Aerial Duel Success: 41% / 59%
Attempts: 9 / 15
On Target: 1 / 1
Corners: 3 / 3
Fouls: 12 / 10
Man of the Match: Conor Shaughnessy (Leeds).
Despite his natural role being that of a central midfielder, the fledgling Irish prodigy performed admirably at the heart of the United defence in Liam Cooper’s absence and could well retain his place for the trip to Sunderland on Saturday.
Booked: Anita, Phillips (Leeds), Sessegnon (Fulham).
Venue: Elland Road
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)
The starting lineup selected for this match by Thomas Christiansen was, to myself and many other Leeds supporters, a source of both bemusement and consternation in equal measure. The inclusion of Conor Shaughnessy (a central midfielder whom Christiansen had opted to deploy as a central defender in the wake of an injury to Liam Cooper) was a proximate cause of concern, but once the young Irishman had attuned himself to the rigours of the match he made an impactful contribution.
Moreover, the performances of Kalvin Phillips and Samu Sáiz merit credence. Phillips was typically combative, displaying his usual alacrity to get stuck in and leave his mark on the opposition. Sáiz conjured a wondrous ball for the controversially disallowed goal in the first period, and he and Pablo Hernández appeared United’s most potent attacking threats throughout the game.
More generally, the team performed to a higher standard than had been the case on Saturday. I was disheartened to learn that Cameron Borthwick-Jackson had been dropped - I presume Christiansen wished to rest him as he did not complete a full pre-season programme - but Vurnon Anita produced another dependable display in what is a relatively unfamiliar position to the Dutchman.
Praise must also go to Pontus Jansson, who was a considerably more commanding presence than he had been against Preston North End at the weekend, and Luke Ayling, who delivered an expectedly stable showing. Finally, Felix Wiedwald answered both questions that were posed to him by Fulham with composure and gravitas.
I must confess that I felt a tinge of disenchantment at Leeds having not been able to do quite enough to win the match as I departed Elland Road, but as supporters we must analyse the facts. We remain unbeaten under a head coach who, in spite of possessing great potential, had no previous experience of English football at any level upon accepting the vacant managerial position in June. In addition, we have amassed five points after our opening three league matches; at this very juncture last season, we had four less. We have always been in the knowledge that this is a project that shall take time to flourish. The team will require further time in which to attune themselves to one another as well as the rigours of the division and we owe it to the players and the coaching staff to remain patient at this moment.
Photo: Action Images
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