|Bristol City 0 v 1 Leeds United
Friday, 2nd February 2024 Kick-off 20:00
Farke hails “near perfect” performance at Ashton Gate
Saturday, 3rd Feb 2024 18:03 by Tim Whelan
Leeds dominated most of the game at Bristol City and should have sealed the win much earlier than we did, but not for the first time our inability to convert our chances into goals meant that we were left to sweat right up until the final whistle.
So it’s no surprise that Daniel Farke focused on the wasted chances when he spoke to the Yorkshire Post after the game. "The margin of the goals, that the result was not more than just a 1-0 win. I think it was nearly a perfect away performance. So many things to like, our pressing, counter-pressing, our fighting spirit in the duels”.
“The only thing I need to and have to criticise is our efficiency. It annoys me today a little bit if I'm honest. If we want to celebrate in May we need to learn to put the chances away, show more responsibility in front of the opponents' goal. Even today out of nothing they had one big chance and if Illan Meslier wasn't there with a big save you probably speak in the dressing room about a 1-1 result."
After our run of five consecutive wins in the league since the start of the year it was no surprise that as far as possible the manager kept faith with his team who started against Norwich, with just the one enforced change as Gnonto came in for the injured Dan James. New signing Conor Roberts won’t be eligible until next week.
For the first 15 minutes or so the home side had more of the game, and at one point a good through ball to Wells caused Ampadu to race back and get a vital block in as the Bristol man shot. But after the first quarter of an hour Leeds began to take control, and we created enough chances to have been comfortably in front by half time.
The first came when Summerville nipped in to surprise Tanner and take the ball on the half-way line, which left him racing through on goal. He tried to chip the keeper, which was the right idea, but he didn’t get enough height on it, and O’Leary was able to reach up and palm the ball away. Perhaps he could have taken it earlier when the keeper was still out of his area and couldn’t have handled it.
The home side were quick to get into a good defensive shape whenever we came forward, and at times we had to play the ball around patiently to look for an opening. But there was an opening when Bamford was played in on the left side of the area, but he sent his shot straight at O’Leary. Perhaps because he had collected the ball with his back to goal, and so didn’t get the chance to check where the keeper had positioned himself.
Bamford then turned provider as he evaded a challenge on the right wing, and a defender tripped over the ball as he blocked the cross that was intended for Gnonto. Rutter was quick to get to the loose ball and would have scored if he’d placed it into the corner, but he allowed O’Leary to get a foot to his shot and it was deflected over the bar.
There was another talking point when Rutter was brought down in the area after the ball had gone, but the referee declined to give it, having not had the best view of the challenge. It may be that Rutter went down a little too easily, but a still photo is uncannily reminiscent of Beckenbauer on Clarke in 1975, with both the defender's legs wrapped around the forward.
The home side had a penalty shout of their own just before the break after a very clumsy challenge from Firpo, which thankfully was given as a free kick outside the area as that is there the pulling had started. I’m not sure if the chant of “you don’t know what you’re doing” was aimed at the referee or Firpo.
If the free kick had led to a goal the Firpo haters would have had a field day, but a fierce shot from outside the area hit one of Bristol’s own forwards, and went behind for a goal kick. That said, it looked like Meslier was in line with the original shot anyway. The chance might have given City a boost before a bit of half-time reorganisation, but if they had been buoyed by a half-time team talk it was all blown away three minutes after the restart.
Firpo played a long ball forward from halfway, and Bamford either missed it or let it run, and it also evaded Rutter. But Gnonto had anticipated where the ball might end up, and caught the defence napping by his run from the right wing. And as he shot O’Leary undid all his fine work of the first half by moving the wrong was as the ball curled past him on it’s was to the far corner of the net.
Afterwards our manager suggested the goal might spark a run of form for the Italian. "In recent weeks he was there with a good work ethic, really put a shift in and had to be patient. You could feel a goal or assist was missing. That he's there with a crucial goal, in a crucial moment of the game. We always backed him and trusted him.” And judging by the celebrations the fans and his teammates still think he’s one of us, with the difficulties of August now a distant memory.
If anything, Leeds were even more dominant in the second half than we had been in the first, and stayed on the front foot as we sought to extend our lead. Summerville stole the ball from a hesitant defence once again, then twisted and turned his way into the box to create another chance, but another defender got back in time to send the ball behind.
Then on our next attack the same player made his way to the right-hand side of the box before shooting, but O’Leary might have studied the video of his two goals at Norwich, as he read exactly where the Dutchman was going to send the ball. And shortly afterwards I was cursing him for taking the wrong option as Leeds broke through, as he had Rutter in acres of space on the left but chose to slip the ball to Kamara, whose shot was blocked.
With the score at 1-0 there was always the possibility that this could end up as another Rotherham or Coventry game, when a late equaliser denies us victory in a game we dominated. There didn’t seem to be much danger, with Gruev working hard to break up play and protect the back four, but on the hour the home side had made a couple of subs to freshen things up and try and get back into the game.
And it was one of their newcomers who had the chance that Farke referred to in his post-match comments. Mehmeti was able to outpace Rodon as the ball was played through, but Meslier got down well to save the shot, with Rodon getting back in time to protect the keeper and make sure that he was able to pick up the loose ball.
There was another chance for us to grab the second goal which would have sealed the win, but Summerville sent his shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post. There were also a couple of moves that frustratingly broke down due to a poor final ball, so the nerves were jangling a little as the clock ran down.
City forced a couple of corners and Rodon had to react quickly a couple of times to make a clearing header, but for most of the four minutes of added time we were able to keep the ball in their half, with a bit of what is now called ‘game management’. Which meant that our players didn’t have far to go to celebrate in front of our 3,000 fans as soon enough the final whistle sounded.
There was a lot of hype about the significance of the win taking us into second place, but I couldn't get excited about that when we’d played two games more than both Ipswich and Southampton. But to win the first six league games of the new year is some achievement, and it shows how well the team is developing as ‘squeaky bum time’ starts to come into view.
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