Leeds outfought by Cardiff and concede top spot
Wednesday, 27th Sep 2017 18:03 by Tim Whelan
Leeds enjoyed plenty of possession but Cardiff City overcame out attempts at neat passing football and took our place at the top of the table.
Thomas Christiansen made five changes from the team who beat Ipswich on Saturday. It was perhaps understandable that Lasogga was rested after his trip home to see his girlfriend and new baby, but must have been wondering why he bothered to dash back so soon, when he ended up spending the whole evening as an unused substitute.
Roofe was the lone striker, while Jansson was back from injury, Beradi replaced Anita at left back, Klitch came into midfield and Dallas regained his place on the wing.
Christiansen explained this selection by saying he omitted those players who struggled in the last away game at Millwall, (hello Anita) but events were to show that he hasn’t learnt that we will need more of a physical presence against sides who play the game with an aggressive style.
Cardiff fielded two of our old boys in the shape of Peltier and Bamba, and both surprised us by looking half-decent throughout the game. Bamba seems to have cut out the careless errors which blighted the latter stages of his time at Leeds, and played in a midfield role in front of the back four, a position where his lack of pace was less likely to be exposed.
Leeds began the game with a lot of neat passing football, but without coming close to creating anything like a clear-cut chance. Which shows that Roofe isn’t cut out to be an out-and-out striker, and certainly shouldn’t be playing up front on his own, though he didn’t get to see that much of the ball.
And we were to fall behind when Kitch slipped as he was about to play the ball forward on our right touchline. Hoylett took possession and neatly cut inside Beradi before squaring to Zohore, who was left with plenty of space as Cooper was too slow to pick up his run through the centre, and Zohore accepted the invitation to fire past Wiedwald from close range.
And eight minutes later Hoylett put Cardiff further in front with a superb strike from 25 yards, which curled away from Wiedwald into the corner, leaving our keeper with little chance of keeping it out. In recent years 27 year-old Hoylett has failed to live up to the promise he showed when he first emerged at Blackburn (having since been part of an expensive QPR side that achieved nothing but relegation) but in this game the Canadian showed that he must finally be getting his career back on track.
Things got worse for Leeds just before the break. Cooper was booked for needlessly going in two footed on Damour from close range, and then had to make a tackle when Mendez-Laing sped past him on Cardiff’s right wing. Sadly he got nowhere near the ball, and started to walk off even before the referee pulled out the inevitable second yellow card.
And in first half injury time Cardiff had the ball in the net for the third time, only for the effort to be ruled out by a linesman’s flag. The first thing that had gone right for us for quite some time.
Christiansen made one change at the break, but to shore things up at the back rather than make a positive move to get back into the game. Damage limitation perhaps? Hernandez had picked up a couple of knocks during the first half, and he was the one to make way so that Pennington could plug the Cooper-sized hole in central defence.
Yet in the 54th minute we produced our best chances of the game so far. Berardi burst into the area, but his attempt to get his first Leeds goal was thwarted by a fine save from Etheridge, so we still wait to see if the Leeds end would honour the promise made by the chant “if Berardi scores, we’re on the pitch”. From the rebound Alioski had a shot blocked, before a cross to the far post found Dallas with a free header, but he could only send it wide of the post when he probably should have scored.
But any hope of a Leeds fightback were snuffed out four minutes later, when another neat interchange of passes carved our defence apart once again, and Zohore was able to force the ball home from close range. The TV replay showed he was about a foot offside, but the linesman was less generous than his colleague at the other end, so the goal stood and Cardiff were three goals up.
Once again Christiansen used up all his substitutions well before the end, which risked reducing us to nine men if we’d then suffered an injury, but at least that gamble didn’t backfire, unlike at Millwall. The anonymous Klitch was replaced by Vieira, and Alioski made way for Grot. Alioski hadn’t had a great game, with Cardiff having been quick to close him down every time he had a shooting opportunity, but at least his hairdo had disintegrated by the time he came off, so he must have worked up a bit of a sweat.
After these changes we had our best period of the game, and I reckon that Vieira touched the ball more times in his first few minutes on the field than Klitch had in the previous 67, while Grot at least gave us a physical presence up front. Roofe looked more effective working alongside a big man, and pulled one back with a deflected shot that looped into the corner, but it always looked unlikely that we would stage a dramatic comeback and earn a point.
As we moved into stoppage time a lone Cardiff dickhead ran on to try to taunt us (a case of “if Hoylett scores we’re on the pitch”?) before inevitably being wrestled to the floor by the stewards, and marched off to start a needless ban from the stadium. And that was about it, as Cardiff played out time to claim the victory that takes them above us to the top of the table.
Does Christiansen need to learn the lessons of our second successive away defeat and start to give Vieira some playing time in the difficult away games? Have opposition managers been watching out many games on Sky and sussed that if they close us down quickly while we play a patient passing game they stand a good chance of regaining possession? Or are we just not as good as we think we are and only got to top spot thanks to a number of fixtures against the worst teams in the divison?
We will drop to third tonight (as Sheffield United play Wolves and one of them must overtake us, whatever the result) but we’ve already sent expectations sky high by being top of the table, and must make an instant improvement in the game at Hillsborough on Sunday lunchtime.
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