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Farke happy with the result after bore draw at Norwich
Monday, 13th May 2024 21:52 by Tim Whelan

Many neutrals have complained on social media that yesterday’s game at Norwich City was a bit on the dull side, but the Leeds team wasn't set up to please them. For us it was the result that mattered, and it should leave us in a better position to get through to the final.

Daniel Farke certainly thought so when he spoke to the BBC after the game. “In a semi-final over two legs, to get an away draw and a clean sheet, especially at a difficult ground, is always a good and solid result. I’m happy with the performance and the result. The last games in the regular season were not that great in terms of results and conceding goals after many clean sheets during the season”.

“We wanted to be rock-solid today and didn’t allow them one chance. The longer the game went, the more control we had over the game, so we gained more confidence, especially in the second half, when we had lots of pressure and they defended really well. The momentum was more and more on our side and it looked like the goal was coming but you also have to make sure you’re not over-motivated and leave spaces for counter-attacks”.

But he did go on to admit that “For our chances, the decision-making in and around the box could have been better”, and that has to be a concern, with the need to somehow penetrate the Norwich defence in the second leg in order to get through. We are likely to enjoy most of the possession at Elland Road, but in this game our attack looked fairly toothless.

We weren’t helped by the continued absence of Patrick Bamford, and the news is that his latest knee injury is worse than was first thought, so he could well miss our play-off campaign altogether. It fell to Rutter to lead the line in his absence, but he has never looked like a natural striker even on his better days, as he demonstrated in the early stages of this game by virtually tripping over the ball when a shooting opportunity came his way on the edge of the box.

The other option would have been to put Piroe ahead of him, but Farke chose to field three central midfielders for the first time this season, no doubt to give us a bit more ballast in front of a defence that has been leaking goals at an alarming rate in recent weeks. And that seemed to work, as we withstood some early pressure from the canaries, with their best chance going begging as Sargent headed wide from a decent cross.

I thought we needed to avoid conceding any free kicks anywhere close to our area, having seen the excellent goal Nunez scored in the East Anglian derby last month, and with Sara being another dead ball specialist. But thankfully Norwich’s set pieces were all a little too far out to cause us much difficulty, with the best of them going round the wall and into the side netting.

Apart from that, the main danger came from Meslier’s attempts to liven the game up with his nervous kicking, but thankfully we managed to scramble the ball away each time he conceded possession in a dangerous area. And once we’d weathered the early storm, we started to create some chances of our own.

The most controversial incident of the game occurred when Gnonto appeared to get brought down as he made his way into the box, but the referee waved play on. He might have thought that the defender had played the ball, but the TV replay suggested otherwise, although the initial contact was outside the area.

Another decision went against us when Firpo put the ball in the net at the end of a fine move, but it was chalked off for offside. This time the replay confirmed that the officials had made the right decision, even though it was a close call. The second half continued in a similar fashion, with Leeds keeping Norwich at bay, but without looking likely to break the deadlock ourselves.

This time it was Byram’s turn to have a complete air-shot when the ball came to him in a decent shooting position, and Archie declined to try for goal when a pass found him running through to the edge of the area, with the ball eventually blocked as Leeds tried to pass through the yellow wall in front of them. With 20 minutes left Farke thought he might as well shake things up and make some attempt to get a first leg win at his former club.

Rutter had again struggled to recapture his form of earlier in the season, and he was replaced by Piroe. And although Gnonto had been our liveliest attacking player he had picked up a needless booking for sarcastically applauding the referee, and there was always the danger he would throw another strop and pick up a second yellow. So Anthony took his place.

Summerville had been fairly subdued, apart from one shot which Gunn was able to save quite comfortably. The Norwich defence are now well aware of his signature move to cut inside for a right foot shot, having twice been the victims of it in the regular season game at the same venue. This time they were wise to it, and two players were in position every time he got the ball on the left, so maybe it’s time he learned a few more tricks to be a bit less predictable.

Summerville was replaced by Dan James on 87 minutes, with the Welshman on the way back from the injury he picked up at Middlesbrough. James had one good moment when he won the ball on the right hand edge of the area, but I thought he should have pulled it back to the unmarked Piroe instead of sending a fairly aimless ball across the face of goal which the defence dealt with fairly comfortably.

Four extra minutes were played, until the referee put us all out of our misery with the final whistle. Despite the game being pretty much a non-event as a spectacle we could reflect on a job well done, in a game when the manager could afford to curb his attacking instincts, as conventional wisdom states that a first leg draw away from home is a good result.

There’s still much to be anxious about, as we will probably need a more positive approach in the second leg to progress, and that might leave us a bit more vulnerable on the break. But I think we can be slightly more confident of getting through than we were yesterday at noon, so the manager can indeed be happy with this result.


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