|Sheffield United 0 v 1 Leeds United|
Saturday, 1st December 2018 Kick-off 12:30
Leeds gifted three points by the Blades defence
Sunday, 2nd Dec 2018 22:25 by Tim Whelan
As people across the country marked the start of December by opening their advent calendars, three unwise men in the Sheffield United defence decided to begin the festive season by presenting Leeds with a catastrophic mixup and the only goal of the game.
Marcello Bielsa made just one change for this vital game, with Pontus Jansson returning from injury and back in the heart of defence, with Baker the man to drop to the substitutes bench to make way. He must have considered dropping Alioski to give Jack Clarke a start, but the Macedonian was to take his place on the field for the time being.
With promotion places at stake as well as local pride we were always likely to see a somewhat physical approach from the home side, and they began as they meant to go on. From the first attack of the game Alioski was shoved as he tried to get to a deep cross, but the referee declined to give Leeds our first penalty for about a hundred years.
I thought Alioski’s antics last week might have counted against him, but Mr. Langford was equally disinclined to point to the spot on any of the many other occasions when players were having their shirts pulled in the box, in some cases quite blatantly. No wonder the three former Leeds players in the Sky studio were less than impressed by his performance as the game went on.
After that incident the Blades were to enjoy the best of the opening stages, with Peacock-Farrell looking less than convincing when coming off his line to deal with crosses. But he did well to get down to turn a fierce shot from Mc.Goldrick round the post. A few minutes later Mc.Goldrick might have been lucky to stay on the pitch when he stamped on Klich after the ball had gone, but the referee didn’t even see it as a foul.
While Klich was getting to his feet, Cooper had collapsed on the floor as the result of an injury sustained a few minutes earlier, after trying to continue. He had to hobble off with a knee problem that is likely to keep him out for a few weeks, to replaced by Alpo Halme. And the Finn was close to scoring with his first touch, when he went up for a free kick and produced a shot that Henderson did well to keep out.
Leeds began to enjoy a lot more possession as half time approached, and we could have had a game-changing moment as Stevens went in on Dallas having already been booked, but the referee decided on a final warning rather than a second yellow card. His inconsistency was infuriating, having booked Roofe for a far more innocuous foul a few minutes before, simply turning his back when he was about to be clattered.
Just before the break the Blades produced the best chance of the half, when Peacock-Farrell was beaten in the air once again and Sharp headed firmly into the ground. But so hard that it bounced up over the bar. He must have been gutted, after supposedly being rested in midweek just for this game against his former club.
At half time Bielsa made the now customary substitution of Alioski by Clarke, with the Macedonian having been largely anonymous once again. but with one change already made in the first half he wasn’t able to make it a double, despite the clamour for Saiz from some in the Leeds section of the crowd.
Clarke wasted no time in getting involved, setting up a chance for Hernandez, only for Henderson to make a fine save. The Blades keeper also did well to keep out a shot from Klich, and Roofe sent a header narrowly wide. But at the other end Peacock-Farrell had to react well to save from McGoldrick with his legs.
As the game moved into the last ten minutes I started to think that a draw would be a good result for Leeds and that it would be a fair reflection of the way the game had gone. But the Sheffield United defence had other ideas, and they were to gift us a hilarious winner with a catastrophic mistake, beginning with a throw in deep in their own half and no Leeds player anywhere near.
A backpass was overhit and well wide of the keeper, where Henderson could have let it run for a corner instead of risking a difficult clearance, or possibly whacked it out for a throw in. But instead he kicked it away from the by-line, where it was collected by Clarke, who had brilliantly anticipated the opportunity. Clarke lifted his cross over Henderson’s attempt to block it, and Hernandez raced into the box to knock the ball into an empty net.
Sheffield United forced a series of corners in the last few minutes, and from one of them Connor Washington sent a spectacular overhead kick crashing off the bar, but it just wasn’t going to be their day. So Leeds managed to hold on for our third win in eight days, moving temporarily top of the table. Norwich were to win their afternoon kick-off to push us back to second, but we ended the weekend four points clear of third placed Boro.
Once again we were fortunate to take all three points, but we fought well throughout a difficult away game against a team who should be in contention for a play-off place at the end of the season. And if we do win promotion this will be a game to remember, not least for the hilarity of the seasonal gift that gave us the three points.
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