Leeds U      3  (Sinisterra 21, Klich 32 pen, 56)            

Barnsley    1   (Andersen 35)                                            24th August 2022, Carabao Cup Round 2.

35,472.

This season already has a decent look to it! Unbeaten with two wins from three including a dominating 3 – 0 victory over a top-rated Chelsea side and now safely through to the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup with a winnable looking tie at Wolves to come in early November.

It was always going to be difficult to read too much into this cup tie with League One Barnsley because we all knew there would be changes.

 

When the team was announced though I’m sure most Leeds fans, like me, nodded sagely thinking it was a decent starting XI. It was a surprise to see Liam Cooper back out on the pitch but a welcome one and it was no surprise that he was joined in the middle by regular starter Diego Llorente – we are not blessed with too many centre-backs at the moment, especially since we are keeping Pascal Struijk back to continue to deputies at full-back. Hence it seemed sensible to give Cody Drameh and Leo Hjelde a run out in the back line. In the middle, it was a second-string trio of Sam Greenwood, Adam Forshaw and Matty Klich, albeit all have featured from the bench this season. Up front it was a first start for the fit again Sinisterra alongside Summerville and Gelhardt – Joffy getting a rare start now that he’s been pushed down the striker pecking order thanks to the reawakening of Rodrigo in that role.

So, it looked like a team that ought to be good enough to see off poor League One opponents, although remembering that the Tykes did win away at Championship Middlesbrough in the 1st round of this competition. And so it proved to be; Leeds cantered to a 2 – 0 lead with a superb first goal from Sinisterra, taking the ball with his back to goal, turning, jinking past a defender and then unleashing a terrific shot into the right corner of the net; great way to mark his full debut! Shortly after it was Sinisterra again, this time getting to the byline where he was brought down. Penalty! Matty Klich took the kick and with his eyes to the right he rolled the ball inside the left post. Matty looked relaxed and alert all game.

It’s hard to be critical of the team in this game as it was an XI that had not played a competitive game together and it was the first return for Liam Cooper for a long while so I guess we could expect some defensive errors. Nevertheless, it was disappointing to concede so quickly to a header from a set-piece when, up til then this season, we’d been particularly solid. Just three minutes after going two up Barnsley had a free-kick midway in the Leeds half out near the east touchline, the Barnsley right. It floated in towards the back post and I have to say it was a severe case of ball watching as the ball went over everyone until it found Mads Andersen unmarked at the back post and he was able to fall forward and neatly direct the ball past a helpless Meslier. Maybe that just unsettled this makeshift Leeds side and Barnsley might well have grabbed an equaliser when Adam Forshaw carelessly laid a hand on the back of Callum Styles on the byline. Styles was going nowhere but, feeling the hand, he inevitably went down and referee John Brooks bought it. Penalty Tykes. Fortunately, a combination of a strong left hand and the righthand post thwarted the kick and Leeds went in at the break still 2 – 1 to the good.

With centre-backs in short supply, it was no surprise that at half time Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente were subbed; Liam to ease him back in and Diego for preservation! On came Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk, with Hjelde joining Koch in the middle and Pascal, unsurprisingly getting more practise at left back; at least it all made logical sense – unlike some of the substitutions we got used to scratching our heads over with Marcelo in the past!

The second half was pretty comfortable for Leeds, especially one we got the third goal in the 56th minute – another superb finish from Matty Klich. It was made though by yet another goal-creating piece of work from Joffy Gelhardt showing once again that his value is more than just goal scoring. Leeds lost the ball in the northwest corner whilst attacking, but Joffy refused to let it go and he chased across, slid in and cleverly won the ball. Then he was up quickly to play in Sinisterra. The little winger dashed past a defender on the outside to put in another telling low cross towards the near post (which seems to be a Leeds tactic these days as we’ve seen Jack Harrison play many such balls). The cross just evaded Summerville and was knocked out towards the penalty spot straight to the right boot of Matty Klich and he once again showed tremendous awareness to merely steer the ball inside the righthand post past the diving keeper; sumptuous finish.

And that was that really. Jesse Marsch gave Rodrigo, Dan James and Marc Roca some minutes towards the end replacing Greenwood, Sinisterra and Gelhardt so that the team we finished with was even stronger than the one we began with.

So, not too much learned except that Luis Sinisterra looked a class apart and I did wonder if he is the key to whether or not we will accept any humungous bid from Toon for Jack Harrison. If Jack wants the big money move and the cash offered is high enough then it would free up a regular starting spot for the Columbian with the magic feet which would soften the blow; maybe Sinisterra is indeed going to fill Raphinha’s boots.

It was also comforting that a largely second-string XI was clearly strong enough to see off League One opposition. In so many seasons past, particularly in the FA Cup, we have made similar changes only to find that our reserves just are not good enough; we have improved that situation.

        Game Statistics:

 

                             Leeds  Barnsley

  Possession        71%        29%

  Shots                   10              6

  On Target             4              2

  Corners                 3              1

  Fouls                      7            13

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