Leeds United 3 ( Heder Costa 6, Bamford 8, 52 pen)
Cardiff CIty 3 (Tomlin 60, Morrison 82, Glatzel 88)
Oh dear , Oh dear, that hurts does that, it feels like a defeat. We all knew the winning streak would come to an end at some point, but an hour into this one it really didn’t look likely to be today. For an hour Leeds were scintillating as an attacking force and the only annoyance was that we were only three goals to the good having battered the Bluebirds senseless. Once again too many shooting opportunities were sprayed into the South Stand and the Kop.
It’s tempting to just brush this one under the carpet, consign it in the folder marked: “just one of those days” and move on, but there were some aspects of this game that are worrying. In particular we continue to look really flaky under a cross ball – something we’ve struggled with all season, and last season too if we are all honest with ourselves. I’ve mentioned this many times already this season and I’ve been shouted down with the cry, “but we have the best defence in Europe, we hardly ever concede!” The problem is, folk who say that are confusing a good defence with a good defensive record! No, we don’t often concede, we did, and probably still do, have the record for the fewest goals conceded in English football, but there is a good reason for that: we hardly ever let the opposition have the ball! But, whenever teams have managed to wrestle it away from us and sling it into our box, usually from a set piece, it’s caused problems; OK, we’ve got away with it most of the time as Kiko has saved the day or the opposition have squandered the chances, but it’s been there for all to see on a regular basis. Today our luck just ran out.
All three Cardiff goals were poor from our perspective, as admitted after the game by Marcelo. He seemed to be suggesting that he knew about our defensive problem ahead of the game, as he told reporters: “I did not get the preparation right because I knew about Cardiff City's strengths and we didn't resolve it. We knew how dangerous they are in the air and from set-pieces. Set-pieces are crucial in this division and Cardiff made us pay in that area today.” Quite what he could have done differently in the preparation for this one game I’m not sure, as I said before, the problem has been endemic in this side all season, we just don’t usually get punished for it. The problem was compounded today by a rare error from Kiko as he got a punched clearance all wrong and, credit to Lee Tomlin, he pulled off a superb lob to put the ball in for the first. The second came from an almost identical long cross, again from the left, and this time Kiko didn’t come at all and four Leeds defenders were ball watching as Sean Morrison headed home. I’m reluctant to apportion blame for the third as young Pascal Struijk was left exposed in the middle when one has to question why he’d been risked at all in the first place in such a tense stage of what was, by then, a tight game. It was a straightforward long ball down the middle a flick on and a simple finish. We can only wonder if leaving Berardi on might have left us better placed to defend that one.
That final half hour was a disaster to be honest with the final goal being conceded to ten men as well. It is a shame because the first hour saw some of our best attacking, Bielsaball football of the season; a tremendous end to end goal for the first with another glory ball from Pablo and a cool finish by Helder Costa. Then we saw what Patrick Bamford is really capable of when he chested down a cross and finished, all in one smooth action. He won the penalty and scored it too and finally looked confident in front of goal as well as continuing to do all the donkey work. All that has been tarnished a bit now due to that dire last half-hour. It's a moot point too whether removing Bamford when still two goals to the good was the right move - I'm sure he would have been eager to grab his hat-trick and experience has shown Nketiah is not able to perform the same degree of defending from the front as PB can.
This is now a bit of a test for us; if we can bounce straight back and come out at Fulham next Saturday in the same positive and efficient manner that we showed In the first half today, then no harm will have been done. We remain ten points clear of the third placed side and the other results today show that, ourselves and Albion apart, no one else seems able to put a sustained winning run together. But, Marcelo does need to try to improve our defensive capabilities, especially against set-pieces and crosses, and we need to ensure that today’s late capitulation does not affect our confidence. Fulham will be coming at us all guns blazing having lost three on the bounce and having had their own confidence knocked; it may well be as big a test mentally for both sides as it is physically. Who will be the stronger side mentally?
Fulham are also the highest placed side we'll have faced since we played Sheffield Wednesday 8 games ago… in fact our entire recent winning run was all against sides in the bottom half of the table; the real tests are now all lined up for the next few weeks. If we can remain unbeaten between now and our FA Cup trip to the Arsenal as we play Fulham, Preston, Albion and Pep Clotet’s Blues, then we truly can forget about this little blip today but I’m sure Marcelo is pondering his options.
Leeds Utd Cardiff City
Possession 69% 31%
Shots 25 10
On Target 8 3
Corners 14 3
Fouls Committed 5 17