Match Report: Leeds United 0-1 Reading - Lethargic Leeds lose again
Saturday, 14th Oct 2017 22:22 by @LucasMonk_
In their first fixture since the conclusion of the international break, Leeds United today succumbed to a third successive defeat in the Championship at the hands of lowly Reading. A solitary goal from former United loanee Modou Barrow, coupled with a late penalty save by visiting goalkeeper Vito Mannone, condemned Leeds to a deeply disenchanting defeat.
Leeds United today had inflicted upon them a first home defeat of the season by a beleaguered Reading, whose manager, Jaap Stam, will doubtless have been exultant at the steadfast attitude of his players throughout the match.
It would be substitute Modou Barrow, who spent the latter half of the 2016-17 season on loan at Elland Road, who dealt the decisive blow in the 84th minute after seizing upon Joey van den Berg’s threaded through ball prior to tucking the ball into the net with ample self-assurance.
United were subsequently presented with a gilt-edged chance to salvage a draw from the contest in added time when Samu Sáiz was felled inside the penalty area by a Royals defender - only for the opportunity to be dissipated by Pablo Hernández, whose pusillanimous spot-kick typified Leeds’ performance in the match.
Following the three-nil debacle against Sheffield Wednesday in United’s last outing, head coach Thomas Christiansen elected to make three alterations to his starting lineup. Auxiliary goalkeeper Andy Lonergan replaced the floundering Felix Wiedwald, club captain Liam Cooper was selected ahead of Everton loanee Matthew Pennington and Pablo Hernández was favoured on the left flank rather than Macedonian winger Ezgjan Alioski.
Following the customary pre-match coin toss, it was the right of Reading, who were sporting a deeply garish orange away strip, to begin proceedings.
13 minutes would elapse before Leeds mustered an effort on target. Pablo Hernández crossed for Pierre-Michel Lasogga, whose headed attempt was saved comfortably by visiting ‘keeper Vito Mannone.
With neither side proving successful in their respective endeavours to establish control of possession, the next effort for goal would come some ten minutes later. Dutch winger Roy Beerens, formerly of Hertha Berlin, directed a wildly inaccurate effort wide of the mark.
The attacking inertia of both teams continued to exasperate, and those present would be made to wait until the 36th minute of the match for even the merest hint of intent to be displayed by either of the set of players on the field. United left-back Gaetano Berardi cut infield from the left channel before passing for Lasogga, who could only strike wide from distance.
Four minutes later, and home ‘keeper Andy Lonergan would have elicited from him an attentive save after the towering Icelandic forward Jón Daði Böðvarsson surged past Liam Cooper and into the penalty area before firing toward goal. Lonergan stoutly held his ground, and the effort, to ensure the match remained goalless.
With two minutes remaining until the half-time interval, Hernández, as he had done in the 13th minute, crossed for Lasogga at the back post, but the German forward failed to meet the ball.
Neither manager opted to make any substitutions during the interval, and so play resumed with Leeds kicking off the second period as Reading had the first.
United appeared eager to bring to an end the lamentation of their - rightly - disgruntled supporters and an incisive attack that Hernández, Berardi and Eunan O’Kane were responsible for manufacturing culminated in O’Kane curling a wayward effort high and wide.
Reading instigated a prompt response, with midfielder Dave Edwards lashing an inaccurate, innocuous shot well over Lonergan’s crossbar after being assisted by Böðvarsson.
In the 51st minute, Leeds’ rugged defender Pontus Jansson strode forward before firing an impetuous and irresponsible effort from 40 yards off target.
11 minutes later, and Böðvarsson would be presented with another opportunity to open the scoring. A corner, taken by Aluko, was met emphatically by the hefty forward but his effort was devoid of precision.
Dutchman Leandro Bacuna then sought to score his first goal for the visitors since his arrival from divisional rivals Aston Villa in the summer transfer window with a shot from distance, but his attempt was hopelessly off target.
The Royals would refuse to relent in their pursuance of the opening goal. Substitute Modou Barrow’s driven ball across the face of the United penalty area serendipitously evaded a decisive touch from a Reading attacker on 68 minutes.
Leeds then won a corner in the 70th minute, to be taken by Hernández. Lasogga managed to connect with the Spaniard’s delivery on this occasion, but could not direct his header underneath the crossbar - much to the discontent of the home supporters.
Four minutes later and O’Kane marauded upfield before plumping for goal, though the Republic of Ireland international could only send a rasping drive over the crossbar.
A moment passed before a low, enticing right wing cross on the part of substitute Hadi Sacko could not be converted by Hernández into the opening goal.
Leeds then relinquished possession in their own half shortly afterward and, after Barrow alacritously raced into the penalty area and unleashed a fierce effort toward the top corner, Lonergan had to divert what was a venomous shot behind for a corner with a stupendous save.
With both teams now expending much energy in their battle to secure victory, United regained possession inside the Reading half on 78 minutes. Sacko intercepted a perfunctory pass before passing for Sáiz, who attempted to locate substitute Jay-Roy Grot with a low ball only for an impeccable interception to be made by Bacuna. From the consequent corner, Jansson carelessly squandered a glorious opportunity from close proximity after Leeds played a short set-piece routine.
Just a matter of minutes later, and the visitors established a slender advantage in the 84th minute. Joey van den Berg’s sumptuous through ball into the area was latched upon by Barrow, who gleefully converted the opportunity with aplomb - guiding a low finish past Lonergan and into the net - before wheeling away to celebrate with abandon. United protested that Hernández had been impeded prior to the goal but their futile arguments fell on the deaf ears of referee Jeremy Simpson, who then issued an austere yellow card to the Spaniard.
Before long, five minutes of added time were signalled for by the fourth official, and Leeds were soon presented with a gilt-edged chance to salvage a draw.
Sáiz surged speedily into the visiting penalty area before being felled by an opposing defender, and United were thus awarded a penalty. Hernández assumed the responsibility of taking the spot-kick, but his effort was timid and bereft of conviction - Royals ‘keeper Mannone made a facile save.
A disconsolate Hernández fell to his knees, and Reading held firm to secure only their third league victory of the season. As Simpson blew on his whistle for the last time, a chorus of execration reverberated around an Elland Road that now had fans quickly flocking from it in their droves.
The result sees Reading elevated to 20th position, while Leeds remain in the play-off places in 6th place in spite of a third successive Championship defeat.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Lonergan; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi (Dallas 89’); Phillips, O’Kane; Roofe (Sacko 68’), Sáiz, Hernández; Lasogga (Grot 77’).
Unused Substitutes: Wiedwald, Pennington, Klich, Cibicki.
Reading (4-4-2) - Mannone; Bacuna, Ilori, Moore, Gunter; McCleary (Clement 90+3’), Edwards, Berg, Beerens (Barrow 65’); Böðvarsson, Aluko (Kelly 72’).
Unused Substitutes: Jaakkola, Blackett, Popa, Smith.
Half-Time: Leeds United 0-0 Reading
Full-Time: Leeds United 0-1 Reading - Barrow 84’
Match Statistics (Leeds / Reading)
Possession: 56% / 44%
Attempts: 15 / 10
On Target: 3 / 4
Corners: 6 / 5
Fouls: 16 / 10
Man of the Match: Andy Lonergan (Leeds).
The 33-year-old goalkeeper returned to Elland Road in the summer on a free transfer from divisional rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and was called upon today to replace Felix Wiedwald, who had produced a series of erratic and irregular performances. There was zilch he could have done to prevent Modou Barrow scoring the decisive goal, but the former Preston North End stopper made several impressive saves and performed steadily enough to warrant retaining his place for the trip to Bristol City next week.
Booked: Sáiz, Hernández, Ayling, O’Kane, Berardi (Leeds). Berg, Barrow (Reading).
Venue: Elland Road (37,890 capacity).
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.
An insipid, impotent performance from beginning to conclusion. United’s ponderous, lethargic play when in possession of the ball made defending trouble-free for a Reading team who had not kept a clean sheet since August, and the Whites too often were guilty of relinquishing the ball in perilous positions.
Though Andy Lonergan produced a dependable display having replaced the woefully erroneous Felix Wiedwald, he was afforded scant protection by his teammates and there was not a single act Lonergan could have performed to prevent Modou Barrow from scoring only his third goal in English football. Furthermore, had Hadi Sacko been afforded a starting berth, the match may have had a different outcome; the fleet-footed Frenchman’s elan and imperishable desire to surge forward with the ball at speed presented to the opposing defenders rather more problems than any other Leeds player did in the entirety of the game.
Reading played functional, direct football that was hardly pleasing to the eye, but Jaap Stam’s team defended stoutly and finessed for themselves opportunities on the periphery owing to Böðvarsson’s bullish vigour and the electrifying pace of Barrow in the second period. Stam’s sensible willingness to adapt his tactics in pursuit of victory paid dividends, while Thomas Christiansen’s inveterate predilection for the very sort of parasitical, arid football we derided Reading for playing last season has once again seen us deservedly defeated.
For United, the forthcoming fixture against Bristol City is of the utmost importance. Christiansen must be prepared to alter his tactical methods, implore his players to be more robust in the tackle and to have Leeds play the ball forward with greater urgency than they have done in recent matches, else the chances of securing a satisfactory result at Ashton Gate are trifling. The recall of Ronaldo Vieira to the starting lineup is surely necessary at a time such as this - his absence was sorely felt in midfield - as we find ourselves in a barren rut and must battle diligently and aggressively in order for us to record victories again.
Photo: Action Images
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