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The winner takes it all from the ABBA penalty shootout
Wednesday, 20th Sep 2017 17:55 by Tim Whelan

This Carabao Cup tie took a while to get going, but there was plenty of late drama before Leeds finally defeated Burnley in the penalty shootout.

Such is the diminished status of the League Cup in this day and age that both sides took the opportunity to rest their players that really matter. Sorry, I meant to say to give their fringe squad members a rare chance to impress. That’s what you get for finding a competition sponsor that sounds like a type of reindeer.

Burnley’s changed line-up saw Charlie Taylor getting a run-out while Chris Wood began on the bench. Shaughnessy and Beradi were our only starters of the eleven who began at Millwall, and quite strangely we had no defensive players on the bench. I know we’re running out of defenders, but surely Anita should have been there just in case, even if he had been rubbish at the New Den.

The start of the game was a bit slow paced, possibly due to the number of new faces on both sides who needed to get to know each other, and the atmosphere was also a bit muted. We livened things up by booing Charlie Taylor’s every touch, though the home fans thought that “he only left because you’re s**t”. Then Chris Wood decided he wanted his share of abuse, so he came to warm up on the touchline close to the Leeds section.

Predictably there were sizeable gaps in the home stands, especially at the far end, and the official attendance was only 11,799 despite the Leeds end being sold out well in advance. If only they’d had the sense to give us more tickets.

On the field, our fringe players didn’t do much to impress. Klitch faded after a good start, Cibicki was anonymous, while Grot lived up to his name with some stray passes and fluffed a shot when he had a good opportunity. I’m not sure what Grot offers apart from being a big lump up front, and he eventually got booked for persistent fouling in his efforts to get to the ball.

Burnley sent a few headers wide from decent crosses from Taylor, and they wasted the best chance of the half came when a good passing move set up Arfield six yards out. Just as I was waiting for the net to bulge he somehow dragged the ball past the far post, so we went in at the break all square.

Burnley were still having more of the possession after the break but our defence continued to hold firm. Shaughnessy looked commanding in the centre of our defence, but Borthwick-Jackson less so at left back, and he became the first to be substituted on the hour. This was the bit when our lack of defensive cover could have been exposed, as Sacko came on and Dallas had to fill in at left-back.

But the home side were still struggling to make a breakthrough, although Bardsley went close with a shot that curled the wrong way and just went beyond the far post. Vokes picked up a head injury in a collision with Lonegran when he was offside anyway, and was replaced by Wood in half of a double change the hosts made in the 72nd minute.

Our second change was in the 79th, with Hernandez coming on for Cibicki, and the little Spaniard made an immediate impact as we took the lead only a minute later. Hernandez took possession in our half and played a great through ball for Sacko to outpace Taylor, and for once Sacko produced an end product by slotting the ball between Pope’s legs.

The goal was slightly against the run of play, but as the minutes ticked away it began to look as if that goal would be enough to pinch the tie, especially when Ayling moved quickly across the six yard box to block a shot from Gudmundsson. Lasogga replaced Grot as our third substitute and Hernandez had the opportunity to seal the game with a free kick from a good position, but could only send it over the bar.

And we seemed to have blown our chance with only one minute left of the 90, when Beradi unwisely tugged at someone’s shirt after a corner, and the referee pointed to the spot. Wood stepped up to do the honours, and Burnley seemed to have saved the tie. There were to be six minutes of additional time, mainly due to Vokes’ injury, and a similar stoppage when Sacko had been kicked in the head.

And in the fourth minute of the extra period the referee showed he was nothing if not consistent, responding to a loud appeal from the Leeds end by giving us a penalty of our own for a shirt-pull on Roofe. Hernandez stepped up, and made no mistake as he put Leeds back in front. Surely we’d sealed it this time? Er, no, we hadn’t. In the very last minute of the six Vieira conceded a free kick 25 yards out with a clumsy challenge, and Brady kept Burnley in the competition (for now) with an excellent shot that chipped the wall and curled into the net.

Extra time was a bit of an anti-climax, with neither side creating an outstanding chance, but Alioski had the honour of being Leeds first ever fourth substitute in a competitive game, after a rule change to allow an extra substitution when a tie goes to extra time. The two teams seemed to have accepted the inevitability of a penalty shootout, which would be conducted according to another new regulation, the so-called ABBA format. Thus Burnley took the first penalty, but Leeds the next two, followed by Burnley taking two, etc. The idea is that neither side can have the advantage (or disadvantage) of continually having taken one more than their opponents.

Throughout the shoot-out I was impressed with our penalty taking, as every one of them seemed to be slotted right into the corner. Neither side made a mistake until Tarkowski sent Burnely’s fourth kick too close to Lonegran, and our second choice keeper was able to make the vital stage. Suddenly it dawned on me that under the new format we would take the next two, and scoring both would give us an unassailable 5-3 lead, and the tie would be over there and then. And so it came to pass, with Dallas unerringly slotting home with the 5th penalty, and as the Leeds squad celebrated on the field I was left to ponder which ABBA song to work into a corny title for this piece in honour of the new format.

A sideshow this competition may be, but it won’t be too much of a distraction if Christiansen can keep rotating the squad. If you’re getting excited about the prospect of a glamour tie in the last 16, make sure you catch the draw tonight on Sky TV, some time after the end of the live game.

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Photo: Action Images

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