|Blackburn Rovers 2 v 1 Leeds United|
Saturday, 20th October 2018 Kick-off 12:00
Huge away following disappointed as Leeds go down at Blackburn
Sunday, 21st Oct 2018 13:17 by Tim Whelan
A familiar problem was back to haunt us yesterday, as our inability to defend basic set pieces allowed Blackburn Rovers to take all three points at Ewood Park.
As expected, the Championship’s biggest away turnout of the season (7,717) made most of the atmosphere, though as usual there was a small group of Blackburn fans in the corner to our left doing their best to make themselves heard.
On the other three sides of Ewood Park crowd looked rather sparse, with plenty of room remaining to accommodate the home fans even after giving us the whole of the Darwen end. The top tier of the Blackburn was closed completely, and I’m surprised the official attendance was a high as 20,029.
There a couple of changes to the starting line-up, one of which was enforced as Berardi in place of the suspended Luke Ayling, though the right-footed Swiss began the game at left back. Roofe was back, but also playing out of position, in a wide right role that he’s previously said he doesn’t like. To accommodate him, Dallas dropped back to play at right back.
Leeds mounted the first attack of the game, but it didn’t take long to deflate the optimism of the large travelling support. A promising move broke down through a misplaced pass from Saiz, and Blackburn broke downfield to put us under pressure with successive corners. And it was all too easy for the hosts to take the lead from the second, as Garner got in front of Phillips to head home.
Blackburn continued to have the better of the game, and a defensive error left Armstrong through on goal, but his shot was blocked and then Peacock-Farrell made a great save when the rebound fell to Dack. Our Northern Ireland keeper was also on hand to keep out a shot from Smallwood, then Dack sent an effort just wide.
Midway through the half Dallas and Berardi swapped flanks, as Dallas had struggle to cope with Armstrong on our right, so at least one more of our defenders was in his favoured position and we looked a little more solid at the back after that. At the other end our best early effort was a long distance shot from Saiz that forced Raya into a fine save.
But our equaliser just before half time came rather against the run of play. A chip into the area from Saiz found Berardi outpacing the Blackburn defence, and he sent the ball across the face of goal to give the unmarked Klich the simple task of knocking it over the line for the equaliser. The Pole was in so much space I had to look across to the linesman to check he wasn’t offside, but in fact he’d been behind Berardi when the cross came in.
That might have given us a platform to take control of the game after the break, but all we got was more of the same, and there still wasn’t a great deal for the huge Leeds contingent in the crowd to get excited about. Armstrong forced Peacock-Farrell into another fine save from a narrow angle, and Rovers continued to dominate possession until they were able to regain the lead in the 70th minute.
Our problems began when Roofe failed to react to a misplaced pass from Saiz that went his general direction, and Armstong was able to nip in and break down the Blackburn left. Roofe was probably embarrassed by his error, as he went chasing after Armstrong and brought him down just outside the area, picking up a yellow card for his trouble.
The free kick was cleared behind and one corner led to another. And as in the first half Blackburn were able to score a simple goal straight from the second corner, with their big central defender Lenihan being the beneficiary this time. That was Roofe’s last contribution to the game, with Hernandez making a welcome return as the substitute.
It’s possible that Roofe had run out of puff just after returning to the side following his injury, but another option might have been to replace the anonymous Tyler Robers and move Roofe to his favoured position in the centre. One thing that wasn’t in doubt is that Leeds were much the better for the change, with Hernandez being the focal point for the many neat moves we were able to mount late in the game.
Another change saw Dallas finally put out of his misery, with Alioski dropping back to full-back and Jack Clarke coming on to play further forward on that side. And the teenager showed some great touches cutting in from that flank, though the two shots he produced lacked the power to trouble Raya.
By now our superior fitness was starting to show as we began to dominate possession, but the closest we came to an equaliser was a dipping Klich shot from just outside the box that Raya did well to tip over the bar.
Bielsa’s last throw of the dice was to send Shackleton on for Berardi as a more offensive player, but even the addition of five extra minutes wasn’t enough for Leeds to draw level again and we’d gone down to another disappointing defeat.
This was always going to be a difficult game, away to a side who will be in contention for the play-offs at the end of the season. But few players came out of this with any credit, apart from Klich. For much of the game we were outfought in midfield and didn’t offer much up front , while our defending from set pieces clearly needs a bit of work.
But let’s look on the bright side. We’re still in fourth place, and Wednesday night should offer us a better opportunity to pick up some points, with a home game against bottom club Ipswich Town.
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