Match Report: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Leeds United - Forest felled by fabulous Leeds
Saturday, 26th Aug 2017 22:29 by @LucasMonk_
On a mild evening at the City Ground, Leeds United succeeded in preserving their undefeated sequence of results until September the 9th with a richly deserved 2-0 victory over fellow play-off aspirants Nottingham Forest.
A fourth goal of the season for Kemar Roofe and a first Leeds United goal for Ezgjan Alioski proved decisive for the Whites, who are yet to be defeated under the tutelage of recently installed head coach Thomas Christiansen.
In spite of a spate of injuries and the sale of talismanic striker Chris Wood, Leeds entered this contest having defeated Sunderland 2-0 in their last league outing in addition to having progressed into the third round of the League Cup with a 5-1 victory over Newport County on Tuesday evening.
Many had, perhaps rightly, come to consider that today’s match would be the sternest test posed to United’s credentials thus far this season, but this was a match controlled by the Whites from beginning to end. Forest could not conjure a clear goalscoring opportunity of any kind, and Leeds executed their counter-attacks with the ruthlessness of a middle-eastern despot. After Roofe’s glancing header following a set-piece in the first half, United did not once look back. They produced a sound, sensible and coherent performance and never appeared to be in danger of ceding a goal to their opponents.
The Nottingham Forest starting lineup included a familiar face: that of Liam Bridcutt, the former Leeds midfielder who completed a £1,000,000 move to the City Ground recently. United, meanwhile, named new signing Jay-Roy Grot - a powerful, hefty forward of 19 years - among the substitutes following his capture from NEC Nijmegen for a fee of £1,500,000.
In marked contrast to the opening portion of the recent victory over Sunderland, it would be Leeds who would make much of the early running.
Diminutive playmaker Samu Sáiz, who has already contributed five goals to the Leeds United cause this season following his arrival from SD Huesca in July, surged infield in the sixth minute before firing a rasping drive from 25 yards narrowly over the crossbar.
United’s early exertion of attacking pressure would continue into the 15th minute. A right wing cross by dependable full-back Luke Ayling fell serendipitously to Pablo Hernández, but the Spaniard could not direct his volleyed effort on target.
Three minutes would pass before combative midfielder Kalvin Phillips became the next Leeds player to chance his arm at goal. A product of the Leeds United academy, his low, driven effort from range would be wide of the mark.
Before long, the hosts would be punished for their sluggish, and thoroughly insipid, start to the match. After Kemar Roofe was felled in the Forest half, the subsequent set-piece delivery was initially flicked on by Liam Cooper before the former glanced a deft header into the bottom right corner to hand United a slender, but wholly merited, advantage with 24 minutes of play elapsed.
Five minutes passed before Ezgjan Alioski’s left-footed cross from the right channel was headed toward goal by Roofe, but the latter was denied a fifth goal of the season in all competitions by home ‘keeper Jordan Smith.
Nottingham Forest’s only effort of note in the first period arose in the 31st minute, after Pontus Jansson’s well-timed tackle on opposing forward Daryl Murphy resulted in a corner for the home side. The ensuing delivery was met forcefully by defender Matt Mills, but the former Reading defender’s headed attempt was well saved by United’s German shot-stopper Felix Wiedwald.
Two minutes later, and Wiedwald was called into action once more. The former Werder Bremen goalkeeper, who has successfully established himself as the first-choice ‘keeper at Elland Road, attentively rushed out of his net to stop Forest’s Ben Osborn in his tracks.
At half-time, Leeds were able to take with them into the visitors’ dressing room a well-earned advantage. There were no changes to speak of at half-time, and so both teams emerged for the second-half unchanged.
United began the second half as they had the first. Sáiz earned the Whites a free-kick in a propitious position within a mere matter of four second-half minutes. Alioski consequently elicited a respectable save from Forest ‘keeper Smith.
In a response to Leeds’ continued hegemony of the match, home manager Mark Warburton elected to substitute Greek midfielder Andreas Bouchalakis for fledgling striker Ben Brereton - to the delight of the home supporters - in an attempt to claw a way back into the match.
The change made little difference. Sáiz continued to be, to the Forest defence, a flaming nuisance. The Spaniard supported Roofe as the latter saw a driven shot blocked on 56 minutes, before Sáiz himself fired marginally wide following an alacritous counter-attack just six minutes afterward.
Toil though they did, the hosts could not finesse for themselves clear opportunities - of any kind - for love nor money.
As the match neared its end, with Forest committing greater numbers forward, Leeds began to launch counter-attacks with regularity again after an uneventful spell. Substitute Stuart Dallas drove a left-footed effort, packed with power, wide of the right-hand post in the 84th minute before United doubled their lead three minutes later.
Following a mettlesome, impeccably-timed sliding challenge on the part of Kalvin Phillips, Alioski powered a left-footed effort from outside the penalty area to evoke in the travelling supporters great gusto and passion.
The goal - the Macedonian’s first for Leeds - made United’s victory certain. As a forlorn Forest ruefully played out injury time, their supporters were leaving the stadium apace while ‘Marching on Together’ reverberated around the City Ground. Leeds could bask in the glory of victory for a fifth time this season, while Forest were sent packing having been utterly bested by their opponents in every department.
Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1) - Smith; Darikwa, Worrall, Mills, Traore; Bouchalakis (Brereton 51’), Bridcutt; McKay, Dowell, Osborn (Clough 63’); Murphy (Cummings 71’).
Unused Substitutes: Evtimov, Lichaj, Manciennce, Walker.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Anita; Phillips (Vieira 88’), O’Kane; Alioski, Sáiz, Hernández (Grot 70’); Roofe (Dallas 75’).
Unused Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell, Borthwick-Jackson, Shaughnessy, Klich.
Half-Time: Nottingham Forest 0-1 Leeds United - Roofe (24’)
Full-Time: Nottingham Forest 0-2 Leeds United - Roofe (24’), Alioski (87’).
Match Statistics (Nottm Forest / Leeds)
Possession: 58% / 42%
Pass Success: 83% / 75%
Aerial Duel Success: 67% / 33%
Attempts: 5 / 18
On Target: 1 / 4
Corners: 4 / 2
Fouls: 10 / 11
Booked: Mills, Bridcutt, Dowell (Forest). Ayling, Hernández (Leeds).
Man of the Match: Ezgjan Alioski (Leeds).
The fleet-footed winger’s direct, venturesome running made him a thorn in Forest’s side throughout the game. In addition to working seamlessly in tandem with Samu Sáiz, the Macedonia international also scored his first goal in English football in what was an excellent performance.
Venue: The City Ground (30,445).
Attendance: 25,682 (approximately 84% of capacity).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
I approached this game with apprehension and trepidation; Nottingham Forest, much like Leeds, had enjoyed a sprightly start to the new campaign and had secured some impressive results, including the 3-2 triumph over Newcastle in midweek.
In the end, my pessimism was proven to have been unjustified. I considered that Forest, who had won three of their opening four league matches, posed a formidable threat to our undefeated sequence of results. As it happened, said sequence was never imperiled at any juncture during the match.
It was a masterly performance. Leeds controlled proceedings from beginning to end and deservedly recorded a third league win of the season - in addition to a fourth consecutive league clean sheet. All the qualities displayed by United in the victory at Sunderland were on show once more; expeditious counter-attacks, dogged defending and a team spirit as strong as an ox meant this showing was every bit as good.
The rearguard of Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper and Anita brought to a halt all Forest attacks. The industrious union of Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane saw to it that Leeds bested their contemporaries in the middle of the park. Sáiz, Alioski and Roofe tormented their opponents throughout. Jay-Roy Grot made his debut for the club from the bench and had little impact, though it should be noted that he will require time in which to adjust to the demands presented to players by the English game.
Quite how Thomas Christiansen and the United management at large have crafted such a dexterous, polished squad on a comparatively meagre budget to that of sides such as Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers remains an enigma. The club’s cost-effective recruitment drive has been widely chronicled, but what is most impressive is the way in which Christiansen has created a team well worthy of the United shirt out of a peculiar concoction of players in such a short period of time. An elision of overseas talent and home-grown players typically takes much longer to become a harmonious combination - Christiansen and his coaching staff seem to have already achieved it, and long may it continue.
Photo: Action Images
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