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Leeds hold on for vital win over Reading
Sunday, 23rd Feb 2020 22:47 by Tim Whelan

This was yet another game when Leeds had the bulk of possession but struggled to make it count. In the end we had to rely on the 57th minute goal from the Spanish magician to secure the three points over Reading.

There was yet another capacity home crowd inside Elland Road to roar Leeds on, but Reading contributed only 806 to the attendance of 35,483, despite having a Pele and a Puscas in their side. Many had decided the ticket prices were too high and took exception to the official Leeds tweet about them being ‘the latest club not to take up their full allocation’.

As ever Marcello Bielsa stayed faithful to his previous starting line-up, ignoring the grumbles from the fanbase about one or two players who have been struggling for form. I thought the high wind would make it difficult to play our neat passing game, but Leeds began strongly and could have gone in front in the first couple of minutes.

Costa did well to dispossess a defender on the edge of the area and cut inside before shooting with his favoured left foot, but he didn’t get quite enough curl on the ball and it went just wide of the far post. Then there was a cross from Hernandez which Bamford failed to connect with, but it might have been a little too high for him, it was hard to judge from my seat in the very back row of the upper East Stand.

But I wasn’t going to give Bamford the doubt a few minutes later, when Harrisson crossed to him in a good position, but again he missed the ball completely. He went on to frustrate me even more with a couple of poor passes that ended promising moves, and I can see that quite a few fans on social media have been harder on him today than I have.

Klich was also wasteful at times, and though he produced our next chance by working his way into a good position, his shot lacked any power and was easily gathered by Cabral. For their part Reading occasionally looked good on the break, and seemed to be quite keen to play the ball to their right, perhaps to test Dallas who again was employed as a makeshift left back.

Their best chance of the half was a long range shot from Puscas which Casilla turned round the post. I wasn’t convinced it was going in anyway, but he couldn’t take the chance. But our much-maligned keeper was less convincing a few minutes later when there was a bit of a mix-up with Ayling as to who should deal with a through ball, but eventually they scrambled it behind before Pele could pounce.

We then had a set back when Phillips needed treatment and then had to leave the field after bravely trying to run the injury off. Alioski came on and went to left back, causing a reshuffle that also involved Dallas going to right back, Ayling to central defence and White going forward to be the holding midfield player.

But that didn’t interrupt our rhythm too much as both full backs began raiding down the flanks. Alioski gave his usual lively performance, and Dallas sent over some excellent crosses over from there, but Bamford failed to get on the end of any of them.

Ayling and Costa had shots blocked inside the area, and Alioski our final chance of the first half fell to Alioski after Harrison had played him in, but Cabral was quickly off his line to make a fine save.

So it was goalless at half time, and it looked like we were in for yet another anxiety fest, as we had to wonder if Leeds would get the breakthrough or concede a sill goal to lose another game we had dominated.

As the then second half began it was more of the same, with Klich shooting just wide, before the frustration level went up a notch as Cooper got in the way of a goalbound Klich shot from a corner. But finally the breakthrough came in the 57th minute.

A neat backheel from Costa found Hernandez on the edge of the box, and though his first shot was blocked it came straight back t him, and this time he beat a defender before lifting the ball over the keeper to put Leeds in front. Reading manager Mark Bowen was to say there was an element of fortune about the goal, but even he would have to admit the Spaniard did very well once the rebound had fallen into his path.

Leeds kept going forward rather than hoping that goal would be enough, but as ever the goal that would put the game to bed proved to be elusive. A shot from Ben White took a deflection off Bamford and went wide, and a Hernadez free kick was on target but a little too close to Cabral, who kept it out without too much difficulty.

And when Reading had a free kick opportunity of their own from a good position they put it well over the bar. After the game the Mark Bowen complained that the referee had kept playing advantage to let the game flow, when he’d asked him to give free kicks because they had been working on set pieces!

Do referees take requests from either manager rather than using their own judgement? If that free kick was anything to go by their training ground work can’t have been that good, so if I was him I wouldn’t worry about all the goals they might have got from the all set pieces they were never given. Or trying to manipulate the laws of the game.

But with this Leeds team it’s never over till it’s over, and I was still anxious that we might concede right at the end (as in the Derby game) and was hoping that injury time would be kept to a minimum. Three minutes was the verdict, but even that was nearly enough for Reading to score, yet Casilla was on hand to save when Moore shot from a difficult angle, and the points we ours.

And with no victories for any of the teams who began the weekend in the play-off positions, we managed to stretch our lead over third place back to five points. So we have twelve more games to endure, though on paper our run-in is easier than any of the chasing pack, even though the next two games are away to local rivals who would love to trip us up.

Dare I start to believe that this time we’re actually going to do it?

Reuters Media Express

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