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James and Gelhardt score as Leeds down spirited Roar
Thursday, 14th Jul 2022 13:34 by Lucas Monk @lumomichalik

Goals from Dan James and Joe Gelhardt handed Leeds United a victory in the opening game of their Australia tour.

Leeds started the game, their second of this pre-season schedule, in sprightly fashion. A mere minute into his first start in a white shirt, Brenden Aaronson tucked the ball home from James’s low centre, only for the linesman to flag for an offside. Thereafter, United dominated the ball as the metronomic duo of Marc Roca and Adam Forshaw wasted little time in making its commanding midfield presence felt. Before long, they had established a comfortable 2-0 lead. James raced onto Forshaw’s threaded pass and struck home a sweet low drive in the 23rd minute before turning provider for Gelhardt, who doubled their lead two minutes later with a header of which Lee Chapman would have been proud.

Jesse Marsch’s charges looked sharp. There was a delicious crispness to much of their passing and a delightful crunchiness to some of their tackling. Rasmus Kristensen showed a great, bustling alacrity to bomb forward and support their attacking moves. Aaronson popped up all over the field. More generally, there was an encouraging intensity and energy to United’s play.

However, it would not be long before certain deficiencies presented themselves. Brisbane soon began to pose a threat on the counter. On a couple of occasions they were able to exploit space behind Jack Harrison, who was playing as a left-back in the absence of the injured Junior Firpo. Five minutes before the break, the Roar halved the deficit. Roca missed a midfield interception, Brisbane broke with speed and trialist Joe Knowles gobbled up a rebound inside the penalty area.

United’s rustiness became significantly more apparent in the second period, in which they made a deluge of substitutions that seemed to have the effect of unsettling them. Gelhardt cut inside from the right and narrowly curled a cultured left-footed strike wide of the far post, but thereafter Brisbane enjoyed a bright spell. Jay O’Shea’s rasping shot drew an excellent save from Kristoffer Klaesson before Luke Ivanovic spurned a wonderful chance to equalise by weakly striking the ball into the grateful arms of the Norwegian, who was deputising for Illan Meslier.

The introduction of Patrick Bamford almost handed Leeds a third goal and some measure of breathing space. He swivelled and shot and elicited a decent save from the goalkeeper. Pascal Struijk also went close with a header. In the end, Brisbane left United to thank their lucky stars as they somehow contrived to fritter away the best chance of the match in its dying embers. Jez Lofthouse led Cody Drameh a merry dance and burst into the penalty area. A frenetic scramble ensued as Leif Davis struggled to clear the danger before a Roar forward blazed a wild shot off-target. It was a real let-off for Leeds.

United’s second-half performance was far from convincing, and they perhaps made harder work of the challenge than they needed to. With the best will in the world, Brisbane, who did in fairness produce a spirited display, were a rather limited outfit. That said, there were several positives. The performances of James, who understandably came off on 30 minutes following his recent international undertakings with Wales, Gelhardt, Roca, Forshaw and Darko Gyabi were all encouraging, and in the first period Leeds, for the most part, looked very sharp. The left-back issue is one in dire need of resolution, however. In the first half Harrison was badly exposed and in the second Davis offered little in the way of improvement. Neither are credible options in that position in the long run and it would be most surprising if the club failed to sign a new left-back before the conclusion of the transfer window.

Overall, Marsch can be pleased with what he saw today. All six of his summer signings got minutes under their belts and the game brought United a little closer to where he would like them to be. Leeds will now face Premier League rivals Aston Villa and Crystal Palace on the 17th and 22nd respectively before completing their pre-season schedule on the 31st when former owner Massimo Cellino’s old side Cagliari visit Elland Road.

Leeds: Klaesson, Kristensen (Drameh 45’), Koch (Llorente 61’), Struijk, Harrison (Davis 45’), Roca (Gyabi 45’), Forshaw (C) (Klich 45’), James (Sinisterra 31’ (Summerville 61’)), Rodrigo (Adams 45’ (Gray 81’)), Aaronson (Greenwood 45’), Gelhardt (Bamford 61’).

Unused substitutes: Christy.

Brisbane: Freke (GK), Aldred (C), Chapman, Akbari, Mileusnic, Hore, Brindell-South, Hingert, Knowles, O’Shea, Trewin.

Photo: Action Images

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