Cardiff City 0 Leeds United 2
What a difference a week makes! Last Saturday night Leeds limped along to a defeat by local rivals Huddersfield and everyone expected Garry Monk to be in his garden this weekend. Instead he oversaw a second half performance from his young side that has transformed and reignited our hopes for the coming months.
Let’s not get carried away mind, this Cardiff side we faced today is very poor, despite having some useful names on its team-sheet. They’ve now lost four on the bounce including a three nil trouncing at Preston this week who themselves were humbled 5 – 0 at Brentford this afternoon. Even in this Topsy Turvy Championship world that says to me Cardiff are in trouble! Yet at half time today, Cardiff would have gone in wondering how they were not in the lead. Admittedly, Chris Wood had one fine chance in front of goal but that slipped away as so many have done for the big striker, but most of the chances were at the other end. There were examples though, even in that first half, of some things we are now starting to do well; the combination of Bartley and Jansson in the centre of defence has been looking better with each passing game and once again today the coolness of Bartley and the out and out passion of the colossus that is Pontus Jansson kept us in the game. In midfield, we stuttered and spluttered but when that engine was firing properly it looked as though it might pick up some drive.
In the second half though, Leeds began to look like a “team”, not a bunch of young individual players. We had the benefit of an early penalty of course – and credit to referee Graham Scott for joining the growing number of refs who are prepared to punish this ridiculous pulling and pushing in the box – and that meant Cardiff had to come out and attack. That really played into our hands because we have shown all season that we are slowly developing a fine counter-attacking ability and suddenly everything came together. Pablo Hernandez had thus far failed to show us the quality everyone said he had but once this game opened up he came alive. He became the fulcrum around which the rest of the side began to tick and his driving runs in turn opened up more space for the likes of Hadi Sacko out wide. The chances began to come regularly for us and the side visibly grew in confidence and belief. And then Pablo slalomed through the defence and curled that delightful shot into the top corner! It was fitting reward for a fine display of the art of the attacking midfielder.
As we saw against Blackburn, we do give away a lot of set pieces – another dozen corners we had to defend today – but Pontus really is a giant of a man and it was once again his head that was usually first to the ball. With a solid defence and a positive, forward minded midfield we are well on the way to regularly giving decent sides a run for their money – let’s hope we can continue to see progress and not that ‘one step forward two steps back’ syndrome we’ve got used to.
Everyone played their part today from Rob Green to the subs – albeit once again we saw far too many errors from Charlie Taylor and I personally thought Kemar Roofe looked off the pace when he arrived; I still expect him to become a major star for us… but he needs game time and probably a goal to get him ignited.
Overall, today was another huge stride forward. We now face a tricky EFL Cup game with Blackburn and it will surely be a headache for Monk as to whom to play in that game. Do we rest most of the side who fought so hard today in the sun in Cardiff and risk that the second eleven we saw at Luton will be strong enough to dispose of Blackburn (who are in a similar quandary no doubt for different reasons). Or do we try to get most of them on the park again to get that momentum really motoring along? Who’d be a coach eh?
Cardiff C Leeds United
Possession 53% 47%
Shots 11 13
On Target 2 7
Corners 12 4
Fouls 10 14