Leeds United 1 (Bamford 5 pen)
Goodness me that was a tense second half! It was a defensive performance though that will I am sure be very satisfactory for Marcelo Bielsa, not to mention Leeds fans across the world!. It is not often we are effectively put under siege but the way Meslier stood firm and the way Ayling, Phillips and Struijk repelled most everything thrown at them is a cause for celebration! This was not the typical Leeds performance but it was satisfying none the less to see that we can stand firm in the face of a storm.
Leeds got off to the perfect start with a goal fashioned in a manner that is becoming increasingly familiar early in games. A lovely ball clipped from Luke Ayling out on the right touchline over the top of the Burnley defence, Bamford nips in and the keeper clatters into him for one of the more uncontroversial penalties given this season! The fact that Patrick Bamford was given the penalty by Klich suggests Matty knew his recent efforts had not exactly been the most confidently struck pens! After the game Bamford told the media that he’s been practising his penalties all season and it showed; no one was stopping this one and it was another boost for the player who we know needs his confidence regularly stoked. Ten goals for the season in the Premier League is a fine start for Paddy and he’s surprised many… including me!
The rest of the first half was very ‘Leeds United’, 70% of the possession, several big chances created and all of them squandered, while at the back the odd Burnley corner and some naïve free kicks given away by Leeds kept the defence on their toes. The second half was mostly attack v defence with Leeds restricted to play on the counter attack while Burnley fashioned a few half chances and a dozen corners. With Kalvin Phillips playing as a third centre back, it was often him under the high balls thrown into the box while Meslier, if not dominant in the air was at least positive with his actions. Pascal Struijk deserves a mention too. It was a superb defensive display and will give everyone confidence that, if needed, we can stand tall at the back even without our three nominated centre backs available.
Elsewhere on the pitch we were hard working if not outstanding with Rodrigo still not the dominant force we need in that midfield role of his. Once again, when replaced by Pablo Hernandez, we suddenly had a man available for that easy pass and we seemed to have more time to pick the next one – a speciality of Pablo’s that few players possess. Long term this team of ours needs to find another Pablo that can do that with more reliable legs.
Overall though, this was a vital three points that, on top of the late destruction of Newcastle shows we are more than capable of picking up big points from all the sides that populate the mid-section of the table where we are really trying to establish ourselves in this important first season back. Another such test comes now on Tuesday against West Brom. Avoiding defeat there and it will have been a more than satisfactory Christmas!
Leeds United Burnley
Possession 52% 48%
Shots 11 14
On Target 4 6
Corners 4 12
Fouls Committed 8 13