|Leeds United 2 v 2 Cardiff City
Sunday, 6th August 2023 Kick-off 14:30
Late Summerville goal grabs the point we richly deserve
Sunday, 6th Aug 2023 22:20 by Tim Whelan
In the end Leeds had to be thankful for snatching a point after dominating the game, after some familiar defensive frailties had allowed Cardiff City to score from their only two attacks.
In the absence of any fit central strikers Willy Gnonto had to take his turn to have a go at the centre forwards role, with Sinisterra playing centrally as we fielded four payers whose natural position is on the wing. Hjelde was also out of position, having to play left back. New signing Ethan Ampidu came straight into the side, and there was a lot of excitement about Archie Gray’s debut, at a slightly younger age than any of the three previous members of his illustrious family.
Meanwhile Cardiff had a new manager and a stronger looking side than when we met in the FA Cup in January, with five new players in their starting line-up, including Aaron Ramsey’s second debut for his boyhood club. But Leeds made a lively start to the game and were soon dominating possession, with Archie Gray having a couple of early shots blocked.
Young Gray was covering a lot of ground all over the field and showing great awareness for a player so inexperienced, but I wasn’t a great fan of his corner taking. It took a while for us to create any decent chances, but then a neat ball from Gnonto played Summerville into a great position, only for the Dutchman to be denied by a great block from a defender.
Then Gnonto moved into space to anticipate Ayling’s header and caught it on the volley, only for the ball to curl just a bit too much and go beyond the far post. Which was a shame, because it would have been an excellent goal. But the trouble with Ayling getting so far forward is that he was leaving acres of space behind, with no one available to cover that flank if we lost possession.
The warning sign was there the first time Cardiff advanced into our half, when we would have been in trouble if there had been an early ball to the Cardiff player who was completely unmarked on that side. That time it didn’t come to him until he had strayed offside, but we failed to learn the lesson. In the 23rd minute O’Dowda was again granted the freedom of that side of the field, and he had time to pick out Bowler in the six-yard box.
Bowler’s first shot was blocked, but when it was played back to him he was able to steer the ball past a crowd of defenders and past an unsighted Meslier into the corner of the net. The goal was completely against the run of play and with the crowd roaring them on, Leeds were keen to hit back straight away. Summerville tried a curling shot from outside the area, but Alnwick had time to pick up the flight of the ball and was able to turn it round the post.
Then Cardiff scored their second goal in the 39th minute. Bowler got past Hjelde all too easily as he came in from the Cardiff right and found Ramsey. His shot was blocked, but as it spun towards the far post Ugbo was able to get to the ball just before Ayling, to score from close range. This time the mood inside Elland Road went flat, as a ‘here we go again’ feeling seemed to grip us all.
As we tried to get going again Cardiff were keen to drop deep now they had a lead to defend, and we would have to try to play through their crowded defence on the ground in the absence of a tall striker. For all Gnonto’s many qualities, he isn’t going to win many ball in the air if we tried sending crosses into the box.
In the closing stages of the first half we had a free kick from Summerville that went straight into the wall and an optimistic shout for a penalty, but Cardiff were able to go in at the interval still two goals to the good. There was one change at the break, with Hejde being replaced by Sam Byram. Byram isn’t a natural left-back either, being right footed, but would at least be able to contribute going forward.
The atmosphere was still fairly muted as the teams came out for the second half, but we were soon back on our feet when Liam Cooper got Leeds back into the game in the 49th minute. Summerville had replaced Gray on corner duty, and whipped the ball in with plenty of pace. Cooper raced in to get on the end of it and guide the ball into the corner, but landed awkwardly and needed to hobble off the field.
His replacement was the man mountain that is Charlie Cresswell, fresh from signing his new contract and now granted the first team opportunity he will have been craving for. From this point on Leeds were to dominate the play, with our array of tricky attacking players who are well above the level normally seen in the Championship.
We were very close when Gnonto burst past several defenders on his way into the box, but unfortunately the ball spun just over the bar when the keeper got his leg in the way of his shot. Dan James was the next to be denied by Alnwick, who got down rather late to turn his shot round the post, and we also had a fairly decent shout for a penalty when Sinisterra went down in the box.
As we moved into the last ten minutes Farke opted to freshen things up in attack by replacing James and Gnonto with Gelhardt and Poveda on 82 minutes, as time ran out a tiring Gray made way for Perkins, to give us an extra attacker. We were still trailing when six minutes of injury time were announced, but Cardiff would finally crack from the strain of keeping our talented forwards at bay for so long.
Sinisterra made his way inside from the left and three Cardiff players moved to block his shot, so that when it bounced off them they had no one spare to pick up Summerviile. The Dutchman had to turn as the ball came through behind him, but although he wasn’t able to get much power into the shot he placed it right into the corner, and it was just beyond Alnwick’s despairing dive.
Elland Road erupted with joy and relief, and the substituted players ran half the length of the field to join in the celebrations. There was still a minute to be played, but there were no further alarms at either end, and we were left to shake hands on a hard-fought draw. Daniel Farke was left to tell the official site that there were many positives to take from the game, not least the spirit them team showed in refusing to give the game up.
“It feels a bit like when you judge this game in an obvious way and from statistics, it's a scandal that we didn't win this game because we had more than 70% possession. They had two shots on target, two goals, we had I think 25 shots. We had 10 corners, so especially second half just one team was chasing the game and playing, it looks a bit like a poor play at times, but yeah, we certainly we missed too many good situations”.
“We are disappointed that we didn't win this game, but I just have praise and compliments for my lads because after such a game then to equalise in the 95th minute after we had to deal with so many hits in the neck today and then missed so many opportunities, so many things were against us.”
We certainly showed that we have the potential to bounce straight back this season, after a weekend when a couple of the expected challengers lost but the other two relegated clubs both won. We need to get an out-and-out centre forward and reinforcements for that leaky defence, but when a couple of the injured players return we are certainly going to be a force in this division.
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