Match Report: Leeds United 1-0 Hull City - Pablo's panache punishes McGregor howler
Saturday, 23rd Dec 2017 23:04 by @LucasMonk_
In front of a near-capacity crowd at Elland Road on Saturday afternoon, Leeds United produced an imperious defensive performance to emerge from a tepid match against Yorkshire rivals Hull City as marginal 1-0 victors owing to Pablo Hernández’s third Championship goal of the season.
In their fourth match of the frenetic festive period, Leeds United continued their remarkable renaissance under the sagacious tutelage of Thomas Christiansen by defeating Nigel Adkins’ Hull City 1-0 to secure a second successive victory and clean sheet at home.
Head coach Christiansen elected to make one alteration to the starting lineup that took to the field against Norwich City last week; Samuel Sáiz was replaced by Pablo Hernández after the former sustained a calf injury in training.
And it would be a slither of panache from Hernández that proved decisive in this dour duel after the Spaniard was benevolently presented with a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring by visiting goalkeeper Allan McGregor in the 29th minute. From outside the penalty area, Hernández did not squander the opportunity. With ample elegance, the ball was lofted over the head of McGregor before descending into the net.
Though United may not have defeated their opponents comprehensively as many of the more than 35,000 spectators in attendance had expected them to, the result elevates Leeds into fifth place and provides good reason for supporters of the Whites to celebrate on Christmas Day.
Following a customary coin toss, it was the right of the visitors to begin proceedings with United defending the Kop.
Hull made an auspicious start to the match, and won a corner before a single minute of play had elapsed. From the consequent set-piece, Leeds custodian Felix Wiedwald authoritatively punched Jon Toral’s delivery clear before reacting attentively to make an excellent save after City’s Kamil Grosicki directed a venomous volley toward goal from 25 yards.
Leeds’ beginning to the contest was marred by insouciant passes, with the hosts often relinquishing possession carelessly in midfield. On one such occasion, in the 11th minute, an alacritous Nouha Dicko seized upon a through ball before firing a low effort toward goal that elicited another important save from Wiedwald in the United goal.
Two minutes passed before the Tigers would finesse for themselves another opening. A composed interchange of passes between Toral and Grosicki saw the former chance his arm, only to see his effort defiantly blocked by Pontus Jansson.
The visitors refused to relent in their diligent pursuit of the opening goal. With the vexation of the home supporters having been made manifest in consequence of the audible groans that greeted each Hull attack, Nigel Adkins’ charges ventured forth once more in the 24th minute. Ola Aina, a fleet-footed full-back presently on loan with the Tigers from Chelsea, unleashed a strike of considerable velocity and power that narrowly whizzed over the crossbar. Thereafter, the cries of discontent intensified.
Inexplicably, however, Leeds would establish a slender advantage against the run of play only three mere minutes later. A timorous and erroneous clearance - perhaps more aptly described as a benignant Christmas benefaction - from City goalkeeper Allan McGregor fell serendipitously to United’s Pablo Hernández, who, in consummate style, promptly lofted the ball over the head of the former Rangers stalwart and into the back of the net to prompt ebullient celebrations on the part of a home crowd that had been vociferating curses with frightful frequency only moments prior.
Shortly afterward, Hull were denied an equaliser by the aluminium as a curling, left-footed effort by Toral hit the left-hand post and bounced clear.
With the half-time interlude fast-approaching, Leeds launched an expeditious counterattack in pursuit of a second goal. A cross by Luke Ayling was cushioned downward by Paweł Cibicki for Ezgjan Alioski, whose left-footed shot was ultimately saved well by McGregor.
United head coach Thomas Christiansen opted to make one change to his lineup at half-time, with Eunan O’Kane replacing Kalvin Phillips as Ronaldo Vieira’s partner in central midfield.
As the visitors had begun the first half, it was United’s right to commence the second.
In contrast to the early exchanges of the first half, Leeds made a sprightly start to the second period, inundating their opponents with a succession of crosses that came to no avail.
The next conspicuous goalscoring opportunity for either side arose in the 61st minute after United’s Vieira was deemed to have unjustly impeded City’s Toral on the right channel; from the ensuing delivery, Hull substitute Kevin Stewart, who had replaced the injured Ondřej Mazuch in the first half, headed innocuously over the crossbar.
Those in attendance were made to wait until the 85th minute before either side displayed a modicum of discernible attacking promise. Leeds’ Cibicki surged into the penalty area with appreciable haste, but could only fire a wild effort over the crossbar from an unpropitious angle.
The last notable attacking act of the match betided during added time. Substitute Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who replaced Kemar Roofe in attack for United, evaded his marker with a shrewd turn before driving a powerful effort toward goal that was parried clear by City goalkeeper McGregor.
Leeds negotiated the game’s remainder stoutly, and the last blast of the referee’s whistle was met with with perceptible delight as United secured a crucial victory to move into the play-off places.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips (O’Kane 45’), Vieira; Cibicki, Hernández (Pennington 90’), Alioski; Roofe (Lasogga 76’).
Unused Substitutes: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Anita, Grot.
Hull City (4-2-3-1) - McGregor; Tomori, Dawson, Mazuch (Stewart 31’), Aina; Larsson, Hector; Toral (Bowen 73’), Irvine, Grosicki; Dicko (Henriksen 81’).
Unused Substitutes: Marshall, Clackstone, Clark, Diomande.
Half-Time: Leeds United 1-0 Hull City - Hernández (29’)
Full-Time: Leeds United 1-0 Hull City - Hernández (29’)
Match Statistics (Leeds / Hull)
Possession: 45% / 55%
Attempts: 5 / 15
On Target: 3 / 4
Pass Success: 64% / 71%
Aerial Duels: 45% / 55%
Corners: 2 / 8
Fouls: 9 / 11
Booked: Dawson, Hector (Hull).
Man of the Match: Pontus Jansson (Leeds).
The 26-year-old Sweden international was indisputably the fulcrum of Leeds United’s latest triumph under Thomas Christiansen. Jansson won five defensive aerial duels, made nine clearances and four interceptions and completed 90% of his passes in the match. The oft heralded defensive juggernaut is establishing a formidable partnership with Liam Cooper at the heart of the Leeds rearguard and is making plain as to why United chose to award him a lucrative contract extension earlier in the season.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Referee: Steve Martin.
This was a dour duel in its entirety, and hardly the shimmering spectacle that the some 35,156 spectators in attendance at Elland Road had hoped it would be.
But under the wily and sagacious tutelage of head coach Thomas Christiansen, Leeds United have ostensibly cultivated the invaluable skill of winning matches in spite of somewhat slipshod performances. This was a contest eminently similar to that of last Saturday, when United vanquished Norwich City by way of a solitary goal despite their attacking impotence in open play.
Once more, Leeds secured victory not by way of a consummate display of attacking aptitude but by way of another sound and sensible defensive showing. They were propelled to this triumph by their formidable rearguard, led by Pontus Jansson, who did not permit Hull to manufacture a single clear opportunity with which to equalise in the second half after a slipshod first period from United that saw the Tigers threaten frequently.
Moreover, Leeds now occupy a play-off place and are on target to fulfill their aspirations of qualification for the play-offs, but the team’s etiolated attacking play in this fixture made clear once more the exigency for reinforcements in January. Also, United have often floundered against the division’s more abrasive outfits and this must be addressed by the capture of hefty reinforcements to complement the diminutive technicians already within the squad at Elland Road.
Though Leeds merit praise for the way in which they have eked out this crucial victory, they will likely have to produce much improved performances for the remainder of the season if they are to remain in contention for a play-off berth, beginning with a fixture on Boxing Day against Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium. Samuel Sáiz, who United sorely missed in this match, shall once more be available for selection and Leeds must utilise his technical aptitude to provide better service for either Kemar Roofe or Pierre-Michel Lasogga in order to best a Brewers side possessed of an almost inextinguishable tenacity.
Finally, I wish to take the opportunity to bid each and every United supporter a wonderful Christmas in addition to expressing my gratitude toward Hull Tigers' calamitous custodian, Allan McGregor, for his beneficence in this game.
Photo: Action Images
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