|Leeds United 1 v 1 Derby County|
Saturday, 21st September 2019 Kick-off 12:30
Leeds held to incredibly frustrating draw by Derby
Sunday, 22nd Sep 2019 13:12 by Tim Whelan
Once again Leeds dominated a match but dropped points after failing to kill off the opposition, this time at the hands of Derby County.
Marcello Bielsa again announced an unchanged starting eleven for this match, ignoring the clamour from many of our fans for a couple of changes that might give a little of the extra sharpness up front that we have been missing in recent home games. In contrast, our visitors took the field with only four of the side who beat us in that infamous play-off game five months ago.
Almost from the kick-off Leeds were dominating the possession, with the Derby midfield seeming far too lightweight to stop us cutting through them at well and creating chance after chance. And the Rams were trying to play out from the back without having the talent to make it work, a tactic which got them into trouble on more than one occasion.
We nearly took advantage in the opening minutes, when a poor kick-out from Roos was intercepted by Hernandez, but he just failed to fin Bamford with his cross. Another opportunity went begging a few minutes later when a ball through to Dallas was slightly overhit, and though the Ulsterman managed to get the ball on the byline then resulting cross was a little too hight for Harrison to convert.
I was already starting to worry that it was going to be one of those days, but all seemed well when we took the lead in the 20th minute. And even then we had a couple of pieces of good fortune. Phillips delivered an excellent free kick, which Bamford sent back across the face of goal, though it seemed another chance had gone when Roos saved the shot from Dallas.
But the ball cannoned into Lowe and bounced into the net. We can county ourselves lucky they don’t yet have VAR in the Championship, as the replay showed that Bamford was about a foot offside when the free kick was played, so the goal would have been chalked off in the Prem. At that stage it looked like Leeds would go onto a comfortable victory.
We kept coming at Derby, though a couple of moves broke down with a poor final ball, with Harrison the guilty party on more than one occasion. But we did force Roos into a couple of saves from long distance efforts from Dallas and Harrison, and when Harrison did get the ball past him, the Derby defence was there to clear off the line.
And the best chance to extend the lead before half time came when Alioski’s through ball found Bamford unmarked with only Roos to beat. But he opted to lob the keeper rather than place it past him, and it was too close to goal for that to work and the ball went over the bar.
Minutes later Bamford seemed keen to score to make amends, but shot wide when slipping the ball through to Alioski might have been the better option. We seemed to be well in control of the game as we went into the break, but we started the second half as we finished the first, with Bamford missing another straightforward chance.
An excellent cross from Dallas found Bamford at the near post with the keeper flat-footed, but he could only put it against the post with his left foot, when shooting with his right would have sent it in the right direction. All this is further ammunition for his many critics on social media, though others say he does work very hard for the team and does well to get into some good positions.
And on this occasion there is another contender for chief scapegoat, when we were presented with a great chance to make the game safe. Bamford did well to nutmeg Clarke to take the ball into the area, before going down after a challenge from Keogh. The Derby man thought he’d gone down a little easily, though that was actually the third time Bamford had been touched as he tried to work his way into some space.
Klich stepped up to take the penalty in the same style that had worked at Barnsley last week, but this time he was way too casual, as he just rolled it past the post and he was left looking rather foolish. And this was to prove the turning point, with Derby starting to grow in confidence after this let-off.
Bielsa tried his usual second half substitutions, with Costa coming on for Harrison, then Eddie replacing Bamford. But by then we were starting to lose the battle in midfield, so these two were starved of the service they needed to make the desired impact. The third change was enforced, when Hernandez had to limp off to be replaced by Douglas, with Alioski moving further forward and Costa switching to the right.
As both the players and the crowd were getting very visibly nervous, it started to look inevitable that Derby would score to snatch a draw despite all our dominance. I thought it would sum us up perfectly if the goal came from Casilla dashing madly off his line, and that nearly happened when he lost the ball from a corner, but on that occasion Phillips managed to scramble the ball clear.
But we weren’t going to get away with it, and as we moved into four minutes of stoppage time, as Lowe crossed from the right, Paterson played in on and Martin raced past our static defence to place the ball into the far corner. He took it well, but that was the only shot Derby had had on target in the entire game.
There was still time for an optimistic shout for another penalty when Costa was blocked on the edge of the area, but this time the ref didn’t oblige. We’d probably have missed it anyway. In the end I was almost relieved when the ref blew for time, as I the way it was going I could see Derby snatching a winner right at the end.
So once again we dropped points, in a game that was a microcosm of the frustrations we’ve had throughout the Bielsa era, of needing to create so many more chances than any other team, just have a few we can convert. And why have we started to concede so many goals late on when we’re supposed to be the super-fit ones? Is it just down to anxiety when we’ve failed to seal the game and we can see a bad result coming?
We stay top for the time being thanks to Swansea’s generosity, but the constant dropping of points at home is putting pressure on us to keep winning away, and we’ve a tough game next time at Charlton.
Bielsa says that he’s looking for ways to play with two up front, but at the moment he thinks that will take too much out of our midfield. But is it now an idea whose time has come, at least when we’re confronted with packed defences at home?
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