|Leeds United 0 v 1 Sheffield United|
Saturday, 16th March 2019 Kick-off 12:30
Match Report: Leeds United 0-1 Sheffield United - Basham strikes as Blades down Whites
Saturday, 16th Mar 2019 15:46 by @LucasMonk99
A profligate Leeds United suffered a damaging blow to their automatic promotion hopes at Elland Road.
Leeds United were made to rue missed chances as Sheffield United battled their way to a 1-0 victory in this febrile Yorkshire derby. Chris Basham netted the only goal of the game in the second half against the run of play, and so Marcelo Bielsa’s charges fall to third in the Championship table whilst the Blades rise to second.
Leeds, unchanged for the sixth match in succession, were brilliantly alacritous for much of the first half. Although they carelessly relinquished possession on occasion, they produced some excellent phases of play and crafted several chances and put their opponents under the cosh.
With eight minutes on the clock, Luke Ayling released Pablo Hernandez with a splitting pass. The Spaniard pulled the ball back for Patrick Bamford, whose first-time shot was met with a defiant block on the part of Martin Cranie.
Jack Harrison then volleyed over from inside the box after Mateusz Klich’s enterprising run and cross, before George Baldock was lucky to receive just a yellow card after a studs-up challenge on Pontus Jansson.
The home side continued to pass and probe, dominating possession, judiciously building their attacks from the back at a good tempo. Tyler Roberts was next to chance his arm at goal, heading the ball narrowly wide from Ezgjan Alioski’s cross from the left.
Sheffield United were struggling to bring the isolated pair of Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick into the match, and this was allowing Leeds to conjure wave after wave of attacks. The next saw Ayling play a fantastic one-two with Hernandez and cross low for Klich, but a slight touch from Basham took the ball away from the Polish midfielder before Alioski blazed it over.
For all their dominance of the ball and regular creation of chances, Leeds had nothing to show as the break approached. The Blades would finally exert some attacking pressure themselves, testing their hosts with a succession of corners before Billy Sharp and Basham, after good runs, were seen off by Jansson and Kiko Casilla respectively.
After the interval, Leeds were not as effervescent in the early stages of the second half as they had been for much of the first, and, indeed, it would be Sheffield United who would start the brighter of the two teams, forcing a couple of corners and applying more attacking pressure.
Chris Wilder’s side then had a glaring opportunity to take the lead on 58 minutes, but Oliver Norwood lashed his shot wide after good work from Sharp inside the box.
They were nearly punished for this dissipation just two minutes later, when Roberts smacked a curling shot against the post after Klich got in behind the visiting defence and crossed into the penalty area.
The match was now balanced, evenly-poised, a gripping contest, chock-full of tension and awaiting a decisive moment - and then it came, in the 71st minute.
Prior to this match, Sheffield United had kept six clean sheets in a row. Leeds faced a gargantuan task, and its enormity increased just minutes later when Jansson sustained a nasty knee injury whilst making a defence tackle. They had already used up all three of their substitutions by bringing on Jack Clarke and Stuart Dallas.
Jansson played on, but was visibly in pain and moving with an egregious sluggishness, barely able to run. Realising this, Bielsa instructed him to play as a striker, and this had an almost miraculous effect, the Swede prodding the ball a fraction wide of the post from Clarke’s ball into the box.
There would be no equaliser. No goal and no points and no bragging rights. Sheffield United held firm to claim what could be a momentous three points come the end of the season.
Leeds lost an important game, without question, but were not totally execrable. Unfortunately, their squandering of several good chances allowed the Blades to grow in confidence and stature, whilst nerves and doubt crept into their own minds, as ruefully illustrated by Cooper’s clangers. Basham’s winner was slightly against the run of play, but it did not come as a complete surprise.
Match Gallery: 17 photos
This defeat will not define Leeds’s season, as they are only a point off second with eight matches to play. Bielsa and his team now have two weeks to prepare for their next match, which sees them host Millwall at Elland Road. They must surely be the favourites against a side embroiled in a relegation battle, but Neil Harris’s side are a tough, disciplined and physical outfit who more than make up for a lack of finesse with an abundance of heart. They will not simply turn up and roll over, and nor will any of the teams Leeds are due to play before the season is over. This is crunch time.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Ayling (Dallas 77’), Jansson, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips, Hernandez, Klich (Clarke 77’), Roberts, Harrison (Douglas 57’); Bamford.
Unused Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Gotts, Berardi, Shackleton.
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Henderson; Cranie, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Basham (Lundstram 90+1’), Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick (Dowell 88’), Sharp.
Unused Subs: Hogan, Moore, Duffy, Stearman, Coutts.
Referee: David Coote.
Booked: Baldock, Sharp (Sheff U).
Sent off: Casilla (Leeds).
Man of the match: Chris Basham (Sheff U).
Photo: Action Images
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