|Leeds United 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 8th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Roofe’s penalty secures fourth successive win.
Sunday, 9th Dec 2018 23:20 by Tim Whelan
A miracle happened at Elland Road, as Leeds were finally awarded a penalty after 59 games, which was enough to take us to victory over Queens Park Rangers.
Marcello Bielsa made two changes to the starting line-up for this game. One saw Phillips playing as a central defender in place of Halme, meaning that Forshaw dropped back to play as the holding midfielder and make space for Saiz to return in an attacking central midfield role.
QPR took to the field in a shocking fluorescent pink away strip, perhaps thinking they needed high visibility clothing as it was almost completely dark even at 3pm while the heavy rain began. Not that it seemed to do them much good, as Leeds began with a series of neat passing moves that stretched the visitors’ defence.
The best of the early chances fell to Kemar Roofe. The first came from a Hernandez cross which he steered narrowly wide, the next from an intended ball from Klich that was deflected and looped up for him right in front of goal, but Lumley was quickly off his line to smother the shot. It seemed inevitable that the opening goal would soon arrive, but when it happened in the 26th minute it came at the other end.
QPR’s first decent effort had seen Peacock-Farrell at full stretch to save from Eze, though the shot might not have been on target anyway. But Wells was to do better when a long ball was cleared downfield. First he dispossessed Phillips as the latter stumbled, then took it past Jansson before firing past Peacock-Farrell into the corner of the net.
Though his finish was impressive, his celebration was less so, as he ran over cupping his ear towards a Kop who had given him absolutely zero abuse in the game so far. It’s been suggested that his gesture might have been because he used to play for Huddersfield, in which case someone needs to tell him that we’re a lot less concerned about the dog botherers than they are about us.
For a while the goal seemed to have knocked a bit of the stuffing out of Leeds and it took time to recover our dominance in terms of possession, but the equaliser finally arrived at the end of a frantic spell just before half-time. A shot from Saiz was blocked and fell to Hernandez, whose ball into the area was cleverly flicked in by Roofe.
We were only a few minutes into the second half when two opposing forces came into direct conflict. One of course was the mysterious power that had prevented Leeds getting a penalty in any game since John Charles was a mere twinkle in his father’s eye. But in the opposite corner was the desire of referee Mr. Bankes to award penalties against QPR at every opportunity (according to ‘Queens Park Rangers news’ at least).
Two other entities that came into contact were the ball and the chest/upper arm area of Leistner, as the QPR defender tried to intervene as Roofe was turning to face the right way just inside the area. I wasn’t convinced the ball had struck his arm (watching from the North West stand), and Steve McClaren commented afterwards that the ref couldn’t have made the call from his position. but from the TV replay you can see that from the view Mr. Bankes would have had it looked like the ball had come off Leistner’s arm after bouncing off his chest.
Some footage from behind the goal would give us a better idea, but I’ve yet to see any film of the incident from that angle. It had been so long since we’ve had a penalty that we seemed to have forgotten who our designated penalty taker was meant to be. But after a short debate it was decided that Roofe would be allowed to do the honours, and he cooly stepped up and sent his shot into the corner to put Leeds in front.
We might have expected to go on to win the game comfortably from that point, but QPR started to show a little more urgency than they had early on. Even at 0-0 they had been keen to ‘run the clock down’ as they say, taking a while over every throw in and goal kick, but once they’d gone behind they inevitably speeded things up a little.
It began to look like a game when we needed one more goal to make sure of the points, and this could have arrived when Roofe was put through for his hat-trick on the left side of the box. But he went for placement instead of power, seemingly trying to curl the ball round Lumley into the far corner, and the keeper was able to make the save quite comfortably.
At the other end Wells shot narrowly wide, and Peacock-Farrell had to tip a lob from Bidwell over the bar. Then QPR sent our former striker Matt Smith into the fray and he was greeted by a warm round of applause as he took to the field. Bielsa decided to counter by putting Halme on to match his height, with Saiz sacrificed to make way.
I thought we should have anticipated the need to make this change a bit earlier, as Smith had been warming up for a while. It took several minutes to get Halme onto the field, while I was nervously watching Smith up against the much smaller Phillips, and Smith did one header from a good position which thankfully he sent over the bar. But once Halme had come on the lanky young Finn did an excellent job of snuffing out the threat from Smith.
There were five minutes of stoppage time to endure with the Rs putting high balls into the box, but we managed to hold out and claim our fourth successive victory. They say that the sign of a good team is that to win when they haven’t played that well, and in truth we could well have drawn all four of these games but for crucial events that went our way in every one of them.
And so we find ourselves five points clear of third place, after a weekend when several of the teams just below us dropped points. We would have gone back to the top if Norwich hadn’t managed a late winner after lowly Bolton had come back from two down, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too greedy. Let’s just celebrate the fact that we’re almost certain to be in an automatic promotion spot at the midway point of the season.
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