Leeds Utd 3 (Harrison 39, Dallas 77, James 90+2)
Burnley 1 (Cornet 54)
Goodness me that was another nerve shredder wasn’t it? In the balance until that injury time piece of magic from Joffy Gelhardt, picking out the run of Dan James. It was an old school Leeds performance really, one we’ve seen many times before. Totally dominant at times yet wasteful in front of goal and therefore leaving us to bite our nails until the very end. This was a case though of getting a result rather than how we did it.
For large parts of the first half it looked like we’d finally found our mojo; we were bossing the play, creating chances and playing some exciting football. It looked like the enforced break had done everyone a power of good and the back line in particular looked well organised and commanding against a Burnley team of relative giants, albeit not very clever ones by the look of things. The only problem was the one we’ve struggled with for years… putting the ball in the net! Even Marcelo was drawn to comment after the game that “we need goals!”. The chances were there.
The best fell to Tyler Roberts and I’m sure everyone in the ground, certainly those of a Leeds persuasion, was willing him to bury that header; I’ve always thought he is only one great game away from transforming himself from journeyman to star but I’m now doubting it will ever happen. Sadly, with the whole goal to aim at and an inch-perfect cross to attack, he could only head wide. He’d miss other chances too which spoiled the perception of the rest of his game. He was as busy and effective as he often is but his eye for goal and his decision making lets him down far too often. The roars of approval to be heard when he was replaced by young Joffy said as much about the fans feelings towards Tyler as they did about the youngsters’ already cult status.
It wasn’t just Tyler of course who let us down in front of goal. Junior Firpo had one of his best games for the club and showed he’s a quick thinker with one inspired back-heel that had Hennessey scrambling at the foot of a post to save, but he also had a great sight of goal from outside the box that he blazed over when under little or no pressure. And even Raphinha missed a great chance when he stuffed a loose ball into the side-netting when it looked easier to score! Admittedly he did almost bring the house down with that audacious long-range effort when he spotted Hennessey off his line in the first half; the look on Hennessey’s face was a picture as he clearly thought it was going in.
So, missed chances meant we only had the one goal to show for a pretty much one-sided first half. The only scare was when former Leeds men Charlie ‘feckin’ Taylor and Chris Wood combined to offer Wood a point-blank effort on goal that Illan Meslier did brilliantly to block. But it was down to one of our regular goal scorers from last season, Jack Harrison to show the rest the way as he robbed Tarkowski, then outpaced and out-thought the big ponderous Burnley defender to shoot from a tight angle with his good foot. Hennessey blocked that well and we held our heads in our hands again only to then watch with amazement as Jack was nimble and Jack was quick to steer the loose ball between keeper and post as if threading a needle with his weaker foot!
We looked good value for the lead, but then a combination of rotten luck and awful refereeing saw it wiped out early in the second half. Llorente was surely the victim not the aggressor as he tussled for the ball but referee Paul Tierney, the latest in a long line of poor officials to be seen at Elland Road, gave it the other way and booked Diego! It’s a potentially costly booking too as Diego and Tyler Roberts who was also booked today, now miss the league game against West Ham in a fortnight. One time Leeds target Maxwel Cornet curled the ball home from the free-kick with Meslier looking at best unsighted and at worst having not set his wall correctly. For all his heroics this season though we’ll allow him that one.
It looked more and more like Burnley had weathered the worst of the Leeds storm and we were nowhere near as dangerous in the second half as the Clarets did what they do best; try to run the clock down and bully us off the ball. But if one of our goal-scoring regulars from last season got the first, it was down to another one to get the best! Stuart Dallas perfectly meeting a ball rolled across following a short corner to curl it deliciously inside the left post. Let’s hope those goals for Jack and Stuart signal the start of a few more to come and then maybe we’ll start to get those goals we know we have been short of; they got 16 between them last season.
It was still nervy right until added time, right until Joffy Gelhardt made the latest entry in his burgeoning little book entitled: “Reasons I should start ahead of Tyler!”. This time Joffy picked out the run of Dan James at the back post with a delightful little clipped cross and the Welshman showed why Marcelo has tried him so often at centre forward as he dived to head the ball home, with Hennessey admittedly unlucky that his efforts merely stunned the spinning ball that then ballooned over him and into the net. For once the bounce of the ball went for us and we had what we deserved on the balance of the whole game.
So, lots of positives; Man of the Match? It would be unfair to pick anyone out really. Forshaw was immense again, Stuart Dallas and Jack Harrison looked close to their best, Junior Firpo had probably his best game while that backline of Dallas, Ayling, Llorente, Koch and Firpo was always secure and often mighty. Raphinha was quieter than we’d like but still full of ideas while Matty Klich was efficient and Meslier, as already mentioned, was crucial early in the game. Even Tyler had a good game until that final ball.
Now, if we can just start to hit that bloody net more often then maybe, just maybe, the rest of the season could be a little less nervy!
Leeds United Burnley
Possession 55% 45%
Shots 22 8
On Target 7 2
Corners 9 3
Fouls Committed 11 7