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Leeds United 1 v 0 Watford
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 2nd October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds make hard work of claiming victory over Watford
Sunday, 3rd Oct 2021 22:09 by Tim Whelan

Leeds dominated the game and the win should have been far more comfortable than it was, but in the end Llorente’s first half goal was enough to beat a poor Watford side for a much needed first Premier League victory of the season.

There was just the one change to the starting line-up for this game, with Diego Llorente coming back after his latest injury. He is our best defender so it was no surprise to see him back, but Cresswell was unlucky to be dropped after his stellar display last week, and some might think he was unlucky not to get a game instead of Cooper.

After last week’s unseasonably warm weather autumn had definitely arrived in these parts, as it was a lot colder, with a couple of heavy downpours during the game. So it definitely wasn’t the sort of conditions that would suit suburban southern softies, and Watford gave a display to match, being outfought and outrun for almost the whole ninety minutes.

Leeds dominated possession from the start, and our first decent chance game after seven minutes. Rodrigo took possession after a careless pass out of defence, and set Dallas up from a shot from the edge of the area. Foster spilled it, but was alert enough to kick the rebound away before James could latch onto the loose ball.

Dallas sent his next shot some way over the bar, but Leeds went in front after 18 minutes. Rahinha’s corner reached the far post, where Kucka headed it back across the face of his own goal, and although it was slightly behind Llorente, he managed to reach back and turn the ball into the net. He was delighted to score but didn’t really seem to know how to celebrate. Then again, he doesn’t get too much practise.

As Leeds continued to dominate, Rodrigo sent a ball into the area ahead of James and Ekong, and although James went to ground referee Simon Hooper waved away our appeals for a penalty. And presumably the VAR guys thought there was nothing doing either. The only way it couldn’t have been a foul was if they thought that James was trying to get round Ekong from the far side and the defender simply stood his ground.

And the chances kept coming as Raphinha went round Foster, but wasn’t able to force the ball home from a narrow angle. The Brazillian was treating us to another excellent performance, with some excellent balls to Rodrigo from the right wing, and although Rodrigo was making some great runs, either his first touch let him down or he would look for a pass, seemingly lacking the striker’s instinct to go for goal himself.

Just before the break Raphinha whipped another great ball into the area and a headed clearance fell nicely for Klich, whose volley went into the side netting. So we had only one goal to show for our efforts at half time, and although we looked very comfortable, we had been beating West Ham at the same stage last week, so could it turn out to be one of those days?

It didn’t look like it in the early stages of the second period, as Dallas had a shot blocked and Raphinha sent a free kick over the bar from a good position. Another shot from Dallas just cleared the bar, but as time ticked away Watford began to think they might snatch something from the game, and Leeds began to get a bit nervy, given the importance of getting our first league win of the season.

Watford created a rare chance as Meslier tipped a Dennis shot over the bar, and then came the moment when all our good work could have been undone. Meslier dropped a corner and it bounced into the net off Cooper’s head as he went down after being wrestled to the floor. Thankfully the referee ruled the goal out for a foul by Kabasele, though the Match of the Day panel thought that Cooper had started the pulling as the pair moved into the six yard box.

At least we could claim that Mr Hooper owed us one after not giving us a penalty in the first half, and the two decisions evened each other out. Soon after that Dallas had to limp off. Many fans are saying that he’s looked weary of late and needs a rest, but he’s now going to get one if this injury prevents him from representing Northern Ireland in the international break.

Tyler Roberts came on, and for once he was to defy his critics with a moment that almost made the win safe. This came after Phillips sent a free kick into the area, and Foster came out and dropped it after colliding with his own defender. Roberts seized on the lose ball and after his first shot was cleared off the line, he tried a wonderful overhead shot which came back off the underside of the bar.

That deserved a goal, but it felt as though we were hanging on to our slender lead as the game went into four minutes added time. Bielsa felt the need to bolster his defence by sending Struijk into the fray in place of Klich, and with everybody back and the crowd nervously whistling for the end, one final ball into the box was cleared and Mr. Hooper brought proceedings to an end.

There was great relief around Elland Road, as once again a generally superb performance was spoiled by our inability to kill teams off when well on top. It looks like we need to add to the squad in the next transfer window to boost our striking options, instead of continuing to sign endless wingers. Either that or give Gelhardt a go up front and see how he does.

Last night I took a peek at a Watford forum and as expected there was much moaning about their lifeless performance, but it was still a surprise to wake up to the news that Xisco Munoz had been fired as their manager. Their last few games have been less than impressive, but the Spaniard won them promotion last season, and you would think their board would have given him a bit more time.

But not the current Watford owners, whose record of hiring and firing almost makes Massimo Cellino look level-headed. Though they are still above us in the table, with this constant instability they must be likely to drop into the relegation places despite their half-decent start. With Norwich looking doomed already, that would leave only one bottom three place up for grabs, so we’re now looking a bit more secure after this result has taken us up to 16th place.

Despite the poor opposition this was another game when then the team showed signs of improvement, and with a couple of games to come against teams near the bottom of the table we could soon find ourselves challenging for the giddy heights of mid-table. MOT!


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