Match Report: Leeds United 1-2 Sheff Wed - Nuhiu bludgeons Owls to derby victory over woeful Whites
Sunday, 18th Mar 2018 11:19 by @LucasMonk_
On Saturday, Leeds United’s woeful form continued with a deeply disenchanting 2-1 home defeat at the hands of local rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road.
Although Tom Pearce made his first professional appearance for Leeds United, in addition to Dutch striker Jay-Roy Grot scoring his first league goal for the club, Paul Heckingbottom’s charges are still seeking only a second victory of 2018 after being worsted by Sheffield Wednesday in a keenly contested and febrile Yorkshire derby.
Atdhe Nuhiu, who was indubitably the most efficacious player on the field, struck in the 71st and 91st minutes respectively to secure his side’s first league double over United since the 1959-60 season - despite Grot cancelling out his opening goal in the 86th minute with a towering header.
To the evident surprise of many, it would be the Owls, who had won just twice in their previous 21 matches prior to this clash, who made much of the early running. On seven minutes, Adam Reach, after being played in on goal by Lucas Joao, was attentively denied an opening goal by United’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell, who parried clear a low effort from inside the penalty area.
Leeds responded well, with Adam Forshaw winning two corners and seeing a shot blocked, but another impressive save was elicited from Peacock-Farrell when Reach chanced his arm from distance. The young goalkeeper did well to push Reach’s venomous, and goalbound, strike wide.
United fashioned their most conspicuous opportunity to break the deadlock just moments later, when an innovative set-piece routine saw Pablo Hernandez pass for Forshaw, who then found Caleb Ekuban. However, the Italian-born Ghanaian striker, with only Owls ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith to gull, hit a timid effort straight at the goalkeeper from close proximity.
Ekuban, who has seldom taken to the field for United in a season that has seen him beset by injuries, was then presented with another glaring, gilt-edged chance shortly thereafter. The Owls failed to contend with a looping header into the box, with the ball falling Serendipitously to Ekuban, only for the striker to lash a wild attempt on the volley well over the bar.
With the half-time interlude looming, Wednesday began to exert discernible attacking pressure and, after Nuhiu tested Peacock-Farrell with a deflected effort from outside the penalty area, Jos Luhukay’s men thought they had established the lead in time added on. An accurate set-piece delivery from the right channel by Reach was flicked on by former United defender Tom Lees before Sam Hutchinson nodded home from close range - only to for the goal to be disallowed, with Hutchinson deemed to have been offside.
After the break, Leeds made a sprightly start to the second period. First, Ezgjan Alioski sent a fierce effort from the periphery of the penalty area narrowly over before Hernandez curled a freekick marginally wide.
In what was something of a ding-dong battle, Wednesday proceeded to respond with a flurry of attacking forays of their own. Again, Nuhiu was at the foreground of the Owls’ play, winning a corner with a blocked shot, before sending a dipping effort just over the crossbar.
The match continued in this capricious vein with Gaetano Berardi coming within a few inches of scoring only his second goal in professional football on 66 minutes with a curling effort from inside the area. And then the visitors took the lead only moments later.
On the right, Jack Hunt effortlessly evaded a half-hearted defensive challenge by Stuart Dallas before curling in a sumptuous cross, which Reach glanced onto the far post - only for Nuhiu to gobble up the rebound from close range for only his third league goal this season on 71 minutes.
Leeds duly responded by earning a succession of corners, which came to no avail. That is, until Wednesday failed to clear their lines from one taken by Hernandez in the 86th minute. The ball was header clear by the Owls but only as far as the Spaniard, who crossed from the left for Grot, who had replaced the youthful Pearce as a substitute, to score only his first goal in English league football and United’s equaliser.
Then the fourth official held his electronic board aloft. Six minutes of added time were to be played. A vociferous roar of encouragement from around 30,000 spectators greeted the news but, seconds later, Leeds were dealt terminal blow.
After an attack by the hosts was snuffed out and the ball cleared, Pontus Jansson misjudged the flight of the ball prior to Nuhiu, in an abrasive manner typical of the traditional centre-forward, bludgeoned his way past Matthew Pennington before coolly slotting home past the hapless Peacock-Farrell. Cue rampant bedlam in the away end, for this was to be Wednesday’s first victory at Elland Road in more than a decade.
The last blast of the referee’s whistle was met with a smattering of boos and an intense discussion about the future of both Paul Heckingbottom and many of his players.At last, the old verities of the Cellino era appear to be returning: apathy, then division, then enmity. The mood of the supporters was largely poisonous in the aftermath of this, a chastening defeat against an eminently slipshod Sheffield Wednesday team, and a similar outcome at home to Bolton Wanderers in two week’s time will only see this toxicity potentiated. The season’s end cannot come quickly enough.
On this gelid afternoon, there were scant few positives. Tom Pearce, a fledgling left-sided defender, grew in self-assurance as the match progressed and hardly disgraced himself with a contextually respectable performance. The metronomic Adam Forshaw completed 88% of his attempted passes. As they did away to Reading, Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski attacked alacritously and efficiently. And Jay-Roy Grot netted his first professional goal - a just reward for all his hard work in recent weeks.
But the positives are more than effectively countervailed by the negatives. Had Caleb Ekuban been less profligate, we could be talking of a United victory - and a desperately welcome one, too. Instead, we lament another dismal defeat, one that leaves United 14th in the table with eight games remaining, as well as the egregious displays of Pontus Jansson, Matthew Pennington, Eunan O’Kane and Gaetano Berardi.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Berardi, Jansson, Pennington, Pearce (Grot 77’); Forshaw, O’Kane (Phillips 78’); Alioski, Hernandez, Dallas; Ekuban (Lasogga 70’).
Unused Subs: Wiedwald, Anita, Vieira, Sacko.
Sheffield Wednesday (5-3-2): Wildsmith; Hunt, Venacio, Lees, Pudil, Boyd; Reach, Hutchinson (Bannan 66’), Pelupessy (Fox 90+5’; Joao, Nuhiu.
Unused Subs: Dawson, Palmer, Butterfield, Jones, Rhodes.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Bournemouth).
Booked: Nuhiu, Hutchinson, Reach, Wildsmith (Sheff Wed).
Man of the Match: Atdhe Nuhiu (Sheff W).
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Photo: Action Images
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