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Leeds frustrated by well-drilled Sunderland
Wednesday, 10th Apr 2024 22:27 by Tim Whelan

We needed to win this game to regain the momentum that seemed to have gone over the international break, but this was another pedestrian performance, without any of the intensity that was needed to break down a determined Sunderland defence.

And after the game Daniel Farke admitted as much when he spoke to BBC Radio Leeds. "We didn't create enough clear-cut chances, which is disappointing, and the only disappointing thing because it was the only reason we didn't win this game. After just being there with a draw, the overall feeling is frustrated, because we had the chance to make a major step in the table and also with our points tally.

"I'm pleased with several things in this game, in comparison with Coventry, we were back to control and dominating completely and we had really good defensive behaviour."We didn't lose our nerves, put lots of pressure on them, created a lot of set-pieces. We were unfortunate with several decisions. It was a clear handball in the first half should have been the penalty and the second half it was also a clear handball and should have been a penalty."

But given the need to create those clear-cut chances, numerous fans posting on social media had been calling for a few changes to the starting line-up to freshen things up a bit. But the manager was to disappoint those who thought that Rutter has yet to get back to full fitness after his operation, and that Bamford is just past it, full stop.

And to be fair, neither of these players did much to prove that they should have started. Rutter ran into traffic too often rather than looking for a pass, without the zip he showed earlier in the season to be able to get past the opponents who surrounded him. Though in general our moves downfield were mostly too slow to trouble a Sunderland defence who were very organised as they got into position.

And Sunderland might even have pinched this game as they mounted a number of dangerous attacks in the course of the 90 minutes, mostly involving our old boy Jack Clarke. He had the first decent chance of the game from a promising break as he got goal-side of Gray, but the cross was just too high to convert. Our first shot was from Rutter, and he hit it powerfully enough, but it was always curling wide of the post.

And as Farke said after the game, a major talking point was the two handballs missed by the match officials. The first came when Summerville cut inside for a trademark right foot shot, only for Ballard to intentionally lean over to deflect it with his elbow. Even then it passed very close to Bamford on it’s way behind, but he couldn’t react in time to get the touch he needed to turn the ball home.

If we had VAR in the Championship then we would have had two penalties, though I can also think of two major decisions that would have gone against us in previous games had that system been in operation.Had Ballard’s intentional handball been spotted he could well have picked up a second yellow card, and as it was he was walking a tightrope in the first half for his persistent fouling of Bamford.

Bamford did get free of his clutches a couple of times, first slashing a shot wide with his right foot, which clearly hasn’t got the same level of control as his left. Then he got round Patterson but from a narrow angle he blasted the ball across the face of goal instead of trying to pick out the only man arriving in the middle (James).

At the other end that man Clarke had a couple of other opportunities, one which was well struck but straight at Meslier, the other being blocked by our noble keeper with his legs. And that was about it for the first half. And just before the end of the interval Millwall scored against Leicester in the game that kicked off 15 minutes earlier than ours, and as the news filtered through it helped to lift the mood in the crowd.

And after another slow start Leeds eventually got going and showed a bit more life in the second half than we had in the first. An exchange of passes between Summerville and Bamford then Rutter went past the first defender, but the second was able to stretch and block his shot at the expense of a corner. But the Black Cats were still a threat on the break, and as Clarke cut into the box Ampadu had to get back to block what would have been a dangerous cross.

As Sunderland’s physical approach continued a foul on James gave us a free kick in a good position, but although Summerville got the ball over the wall it ended up in the side netting. The more set-pieces we get the more important it is to make good use of them, so it’s a bit frustrating that in the absence of Sam Greenwood we haven’t managed to coach any of the players who remain to be a dead ball specialist.

Sunderland almost showed us how it’s done, with a free kick whipped over the wall at pace. Meslier opted to punch as he dived for the ball, but at least got it into an area where no Sunderland players were lurking, and the danger was cleared. Farke has drawn a lot of criticism for leaving his subs too late once again, but on 71 minutes he exchanged a striker for a midfielder as Gnonto came on for Kamara.

And eleven minutes later he sent Piroe, Joseph and Roberts on for Bamford, James and Gray, in the search for a bit more energy in the closing stages. And the opportunity might have come from the penalty spot, as O’Nien handled the ball while pushing Rodon in the back of the head at a corner. The ref’s view was blocked by Rodon’s head being in the way, but shouldn’t the linesman have been able to spot it?

We finally got a shot on target with Gnonto’s powerful effort from outside the area, but it was straight at O’Nien, who was able to touch the ball legally this time. It could have gone anywhere as it cannoned off his head, but unfortunately the ball looped up and went well over the bar. Only three additional minutes were announced, causing Farke to go a bit loopy on the touchline as Sunderland had persistently been rather slow to restart play.

But in truth it was one of those nights when we might not have scored if the game had gone on to midnight. The saving grace was of course Leicester’s defeat, coupled with Ipswich’s failure to beat Watford tonight. With the top three failing to score a goal between us, it’s still possible that Southampton could come back into the equation after their win over Coventry. Why couldn’t the Sky Blues defend as badly against us as they did for Southampton's winner?

After the game Farke spoke of his first promotion with Norwich when they got over the line despite dropping points, but that was of course thanks to our own nervous implosion at the end of 2018/9. If we are to avoid a similar fate this time he might need to ring a few changes to give us a bit more energy, but are we going to see that against Blackburn on Saturday/


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