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Match Report: Sunderland 0-2 Leeds United - United Vanquish Black Cats in Excellent Display
Saturday, 19th Aug 2017 22:01 by @LucasMonk_

On a gusty and blustery evening at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Leeds United extended their unbeaten sequence of results—while ending that of their opponents—with a triumph over adversity.

After two goalless draws in succession at home to Preston North End and Fulham respectively, many expected the absence of last season’s top scorer, Chris Wood, to be felt by Leeds United in today’s meeting with Sunderland. Wood, 25, is reputedly destined for a transfer to Burnley of the Premier League, with the Clarets having agreed a fee of £15,000,000 in order to secure the striker’s services; the New Zealand international was omitted from the matchday squad at his own behest, much to the dismay of United supporters the world over. However, Leeds emerged from this match victorious in spite of the talismanic forward’s absence—recording their first victory over Sunderland since December 2004 courtesy of goals from Samu Sáiz and Stuart Dallas.

In his obligatory post-match interview following the full-time whistle, Thomas Christiansen declared: "I only count on players who want to fight for the shirt, the badge and their team-mates." He, quite clearly, is possessed of many such players. Leeds produced a dogged, determined performance; exuding efficiency in defence and attack, particularly when playing on the periphery. Though United are to lose what many perceive to be their most salient asset there is little doubt that, on the basis of this performance, the club will remain well-placed to mount an assault on the division’s uppermost reaches should they recruit an adequate replacement for Wood.

The opening exchanges of the game were controlled by the hosts. With five minutes elapsed, left-back Brendan Galloway, who is on loan at the Stadium of Light from Everton, crossed for Lewis Grabban; the defender’s delivery eluded the latter but the move represented initiative on Sunderland’s part.

Three minutes passed before Vurnon Anita’s deflected clearance fell in a benign manner to James Vaughan. The 29-year-old forward, who became Simon Grayson’s first signing as Sunderland manager in July, elected to shoot, but the former Everton striker saw his effort defiantly blocked by defensive juggernaut Pontus Jansson.

After withstanding the Black Cats’ early exertion of pressure, Leeds found that they were now able to venture forward with greater regularity. Ezgjan Alioski, who has been the subject of a considerable degree of criticism in recent days following underwhelming performances in his previous two outings, won a free-kick for United in a threatening position on 14 minutes. Kalvin Phillips duly attempted to open the scoring—curling a well struck effort around the defending wall—but home ‘keeper Jason Steele held the midfielder’s shot with relative ease.

The hosts would then spurn what was a gilt-edged opportunity to establish a slender advantage just four minutes later. A driven ball on the part of Lewis Grabban was played into the path of Vaughan, who returned possession to the former before Grabban cut inside and chanced his arm; unfortunately for Sunderland, a combination of Leeds defender Liam Cooper and the aluminium of the crossbar denied Grabban a fourth goal of the season in as many matches.

Simon Grayson’s charges would then be made to rue that miss only a mere two minutes after Cooper’s imperative defensive intervention. Sunderland were caught napping from a throw in and after Alioski scampered into a pocket of space that had been vacated by Galloway before playing the ball infield, Samu Sáiz raced onto the pass before placing the ball into the bottom-left corner in consummate style; this was the first goal of the game and the fourth of the Spaniard’s season thus far.

The complexion of the game was, at that precise moment, radically altered. Leeds soon surged forward into the opposing half again in the 23rd minute, with Pablo Hernández narrowly heading a whipped cross by Sáiz over the home crossbar. This would prove to be Hernández’s last act of the match, as his withdrawal was necessitated by an injury he had sustained following a collision with Eunan O’Kane earlier in the half—Kemar Roofe took his place on the left flank.

Not content with a 1-0 lead, the Whites continued to attack with purpose and urgency; Alioski seized upon an excellent through ball from midfield prior to shooting from the edge of the penalty area, but the Macedonian could only drag his effort wide.

With seven minutes to play before the interval, Sunderland sought to equalise. Lee Cattermole struck a venomous effort toward goal from outside of the United box that elicited an attentive save from Leeds ‘keeper Felix Wiedwald.

There were no changes during the half-time recess, though it would not be long before Sunderland made a double substitution on 55 minutes. Dexterous playmaker Wahbi Khazri and energetic full-back Adam Matthews replaced the ineffectual Vaughan and Galloway respectively.

Having played an hour, Leeds were then forced into making their second substitution of the match after Caleb Ekuban, who was spearheading the United attack in Chris Wood’s absence, sustained an injury. The ailed forward, who had toiled and competed well for Leeds, limped off to be replaced by Stuart Dallas with Kemar Roofe assuming striking responsibilities.

Sunderland had begun to enjoy far greater quantities of possession than they had been able to in the first period, but their dominance of the ball was to no avail. By now, United head coach Thomas Christiansen had, quite conspicuously, instructed his players to play on the counterattack.

The next effort of the match would arise in the 70th minute after Sunderland’s Lamine Koné was reprimanded for handball. From the ensuing free-kick, Alioski directed a driven effort toward goal that was beaten away well by home ‘keeper Steele.

With 18 minutes of normal time remaining, Leeds broke upfield apace. Sáiz passed for Alioski, who, perhaps selfishly, went for goal himself only to again by denied by Steele, who produced another good save to keep Sunderland in the match.

The game was now nearing its conclusion, with time ebbing away for the hosts to muster an equaliser to preserve their unbeaten sequence of results. A youthful Swedish striker, Joel Asoro, was substituted onto the field of play in place of Cattermole on 74 minutes, but Sunderland would soon overexert themselves in their pursuit of a goal.

Sáiz—who had been a perennial thorn in Sunderland’s side throughout the match—crossed from the right and an unmarked Dallas connected with the cross emphatically at the far post to send a forceful header past a hapless Steele and make virtually certain United’s victory.
That cross would be Sáiz’s last contribution of the day as he was replaced by Poland international Mateusz Klich four minutes later, and the travelling contingent of Leeds supporters acclaimed their newfound hero as he made his way from the pitch.

A desperate Sunderland continued in their forlorn endeavours to find a goal for their now deeply disgruntled home supporters, but to no benefit; full-back Billy Jones spurned a late opportunity when he fired wide after connecting with a pinpoint cross from the left channel by Aiden McGeady.

By the time the referee had blown the full-time whistle, the vast majority of the home supporters had made for the exits. They will no doubt wish for an improved performance from their side on Tuesday night away to League Two Carlisle United, as the Black Cats’ bid for progression into the third round of the Carabao Cup with victory at Brunton Park. For Leeds, this result will instill much confidence into the squad at Elland Road ahead of the visit of Newport County, also of League Two, in their own second round tie on the same day.


Sunderland (4-4-2) - Steele; Jones, Browning, Koné, Galloway (Matthews 55’); Honeyman, Ndong, Cattermole (Asoro 74’), McGeady; Vaughan (Khazri 55’), Grabban.

Unused Substitutes: Ruiter, O’Shea, Gibson, Gooch.

Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Anita; Phillips, O’Kane; Alioski, Sáiz (Klich 81’), Hernandez (Roofe 25’); Ekuban (Dallas 62’).

Unused Substitutes: Green, Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson, Vieira.

Half-Time: Sunderland 0-1 Leeds United - Sáiz (21’)

Full-Time: Sunderland 0-2 Leeds United - Sáiz (21’), Dallas (76’)

Match Statistics (Sunderland / Leeds)

Possession: 55% / 45%

Pass Success: 71% / 66%

Aerial Duel Success: 51% / 49%

Attempts: 12 / 8

On Target: 1 / 5

Corners: 7 / 4

Fouls: 13 / 9

Man of the Match: Samu Sáiz (Leeds).

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder produced a performance as every bit as good as that which he produced against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup on his Leeds United debut—a match in which he scored a mesmeric hat-trick. Throughout the match, the diminutive Spaniard was a thorn in Sunderland’s side; he evaded innumerable challenges with ease, assisted United’s second goal and scored the first in consummate style.

Booked: Koné, Galloway, Ndong (Sunderland). Wiedwald (Leeds).

Match Facts

Venue: Stadium of Light (49,000).

Attendance: 31,237 (63.7% of capacity).

Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).

Writer’s Verdict:

I must firstly confess that this United’s performance, and this result, astounded me. In the absence of Chris Wood I did not think it possible that we would emerge victorious from what was, on paper, highly probable to be one of the most difficult matches of the entire season. In lieu of rolling over, Leeds fought admirably for the name on the front of their shirts and not the names emblazoned on the backs of them. Diligence, defensive solidity and an imperishable team spirit were the catalysts for this quite remarkable victory in spite of what were extremely trying circumstances.

The rearguard of Ayling, Jansson, Cooper and Anita worked seamlessly in tandem; they snuffed out Sunderland attacks as a cold breath does to the flame of a candle. An inexhaustible partnership of the industrious Kalvin Phillips and energetic Eunan O’Kane provided a firm base upon which the front four could construct attacks. The front four, which was subject to two forced substitutions throughout the match, continued to threaten each time United ventured into the Sunderland half. It was, from the first minute to the very last, a quintessential away performance.

Not only does the result ensure the retention of Leeds’ undefeated streak of results—in addition to ending that of Sunderland—it proves that United remain capable of mounting an assault upon the loftier reaches of the division if they can acquire an adequate replacement for Wood. I do not think the club’s management to be unwise enough to permit last season’s top scorer to depart without having such a replacement in mind, and I would therefore anticipate to see movement on that particular front within the coming days.

For now, as supporters we can bask in the glory of this result and savour a richly deserved three points ahead of Tuesday’s match at home to Newport County—who themselves secured a commendable result of their own today, winning 1-0 at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

Photo: Action Images

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