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Leeds United 3 v 3 Cardiff City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 14th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds draw with Cardiff in amazing game
Sunday, 15th Dec 2019 12:32 by Tim Whelan

For much of the game it looked like Leeds would storm to an easy victory, but some ropey defending allowed Cardiff City to come back and draw 3-3. An unforgettable game, but not in a good way.

To get to the game I endured a fraught train journey up to Leeds, which started off rubbish, and at one stage I didn’t think I would get there, but it turned out all right in the end . Little did I know that the match would give me exactly the opposite experience.

Marcello Bielsa kept faith with the same starting lineup who had defeated Hull in midweek, despite the fact that left us with a makeshift defence, with captain Cooper still out injured. It doesn’t say a lot for Douglas if Bielsa would rather play Dallas out of position at left back rather than select him.

The visitors had been expected to be challenging us for promotion by now, with the benefit of the parachute payments to bolster their squad, but an indifferent season has seen the departure of Neil Warnock. Neil Harris had made a good start as his replacement, until his unbeaten run ended at Brentford in midweek, and they were missing the influential Junior Hoylett, who hobbled off in that game.

At the start of game I was delighted that I’d actually made it for kick-off, as Leeds began with some of the best football we’ve seen at Elland Road for years. The first great move ended with a rather feeble finish from Hernandez who shot wide, but a few minutes later we were in front from an excellent break following a Cardiff corner.

For the second game running the opening goal resulted from a fantastic ball from Hernadez to Costa, picking him out with a Crossfield pass as he raced through on the left. Costa had time to pick his spot and he placed it past the Etheridge as the keeper came out, and it crept into the far corner just as I thought it was going past the post.

And in the eighth minute it was two. Just when it looked like the move had petered out, Dallas kept battling away for the ball on the edge of the box, and was able to turn and send over a dangerous cross. It found Bamford in a yard of space, and the striker was able to chest the ball down before volleying it into the roof of the net.

At that stage it looked like we were on for a comfortable win, perhaps a re-run of the Middlesbrough game, and the chances kept coming. Hernadez was denied by a good save and Beradi sent a header just over, but a couple of good moves ended with some wayward shots well over the bar. Costa had a shout for a penalty, but the TV would later show that the defender played the ball.

But as half-time approached Cardiff began to show a bit more spirit, and I starting to think we were trying to be a bit too clever with some of our passing when the lead was only 2-0 and we hadn’t killed them off yet. But surely I didn’t need to worry that we wouldn’t win after this performance, that would be ridiculous wouldn’t it?

And six after the break we seemed to have sealed the three points, as Bamford managed to fall over Etheridge after the keeper had gone to ground. Cardiff seemed aggrieved with the penalty decision, feeling Bamford had played for it when he had no chance of catching up with the ball before it went out. No matter, Bamford stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot, and it looked like game over.

Cardiff’s heads seemed to drop after that, and Klich was close to adding a fourth before Etheridge tipped his shot over the bar. But the welsh side were given a lifeline on the hour. Casilla has been a bit more restrained this season, but was back to his old self as the came off his line to punch when he didn’t really need to, with Berardi there to challenge for the ball.

The ball dropped to Tomlin on the edge of the box, and the Cardiff man accepted the invitation to send a superb lob over our stranded keeper into the far corner. At the time it hardly seemed to matter, but it Cardiff a foothold in the game, and from then they began to battle back. Neil Harris has been an irritant to us for a few years now, and you can never accuse his sides of lacking spirit.

We strived to restore the two goal advantage, but Klich had a shot blocked and Hernadez sent an effort narrowly wide. Bielsa chose this moment to take Bamford off for Eddie, and Bamford seemed a little reluctant to depart, having seemingly set his heart on a hat-trick. Perhaps Bielsa thought Eddie’s pace would be effective against a tiring defence.

Eddie did force Etheridge into another fine save, but it was Cardiff who were to score as we moved into the last 10 minutes. Morrison was given far too much space to head home from a free kick, and suddenly it started to look like we might throw this game away after all. But that was as good as it got for Morrison as he was sent off a few minutes later for a bad tackle on Eddie, though I’m not convinced it should have been a straight red.

So surely the win would be safe after all against ten men. Alioski came for Harrison, which might have shored things up at the back, but the final substitution has been much criticised by Noel Whelan on Radio Leeds and on social media. Struijk replaced Berardi, and while the lad is said to be very promising, was this the right situation to throw him into.

It might have made sense if he’d replaced a midfielder, but this seemed like a like for like a change made for the sake of it, when Bielsa might have been better relying on the more experienced players to see the game out. As it was Struijk looked to be badly caught out when Glatzel was able to race past him onto a through ball to bring Cardiff level.

We raced forward to try to grab a winner in the time that remained, though part of me thought the way things had gone we were just as likely to lose 4-3! We nearly did score when Eddie’s header was saved and it came back to White too fast for him to react, and it went just past the post. Perhaps a striker would have scored in that situation, but despite four minutes of injury time that proved to be our final chance.

The Cardiff fans celebrated as if they’d just won the cup or promotion or something, while we filed out disconsolately, many saying that it felt like a defeat. The only consolation was that most of the teams around the play-off places also dropped points, so the points gap to third place is still in double figures.

In many ways this game was a microcosm of last season, with the bright start, the error from Casilla at the wrong time, and the nervy collapse when we failed to get over the line. To ship 30% of the goals conceded in the season in half an hour is a pretty bad day at the office, so we’ll just have to hope it’s just a blip and this time it will be all right.

Roll on the vital game at Fulham next Saturday.

Reuters Media Express

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