Leeds United 3 (Phillips 79, Harrison 85,90)
Crewe Alex 0
At long last… a cup victory! When a strong Leeds team was announced it was clear that anything but a win against a team sat 22nd in League One that had lost their previous three games would be an embarrassment … but we said something similar in January at Crawley! It took a long while to put Crewe to the sword but their valiant resistance was finally broken with the arrival onto the pitch of Patrick Bamford in the 69th minute and with Leeds finally finding their shooting boots.
Another almost full house at Elland Road, with plenty of youngsters clearly getting their first visit, was kept waiting last night as a pretty strong looking Leeds side toiled for 79 minutes without breaching a stubborn Crewe defence. At times in the first half Crewe gave as good as they got too, with Bielsa even commenting after the game that for twenty minutes or so he was not sure exactly how Crewe had set up to play the game! Whatever they were doing it was ensuring that several Leeds chances were no more than half-chances and when they were more than that they typically went begging with poor finishing or a couple of good saves from young Jaaskelainen, son of Jussi who did so well for Bolton for 15 years. Kalvin Phillips missed what looked an easy headed chance, the keeper foiled fine strikes from Jack Harrison and Forshaw and Junior Firpo struck the post as Leeds took control in the first half without actually scoring.
This was a great opportunity for a few of the Leeds players who appear to be classed as ‘first reserves” these days; in came Shackleton, Forshaw, Costa, Roberts and Rodrigo who must all be considered in that group, while it was a good opportunity for Diego Llorente to get his match legs back too. It has to be said that Shackleton, Forshaw and Llorente took their opportunities with both feet while the rest, to a lesser or greater degree didn’t.
Of those who didn’t, Costa had a shocker in my opinion; there was plenty of effort from him but little went right and he was responsible for a few of those off-target shots. Time must be running out for the £15 million man, and I wonder what young Crysencio Summerville was thinking as he watched Costa from the touchline. Surely the tricky little Crysencio will feature soon particularly as Ian Poveda has now been shipped out to Blackburn. Of the others, well, Tyler Roberts was always busy as he often is and I wouldn’t say he had a poor game and yet he was another who’s effort was seldom rewarded by any telling final ball or shot. A couple of times he tamely side-footed efforts at goal that really needed him to put his laces through it. Similarly Rodrigo once again looked like a man who doesn’t altogether buy into the system Leeds use, certainly he doesn’t thrive in it and he looks unlikely to start ahead of Klich or Dallas in the middle. With the dramatic change-about that occurred when Paddy B came on it’s pretty certain he’ll not start up front either, short of an injury to the now near iconic Patrick Bamford although I’d be hard pressed to decide if Tyler or Rodrigo should get that call in the event.
Those that thrived were Shacks, buzzing here there and everywhere but without fuss or bother; Adam Forshaw who belied all his injury woes with a powerful display and some crunching tackles both given and received; and Diego Llorente who was all class and composure and is surely a first choice for centre back once fully fit.
Overall, Leeds dominated this game but, as we’ve seen before, our finishing was perhaps letting us down. This time we amassed 28 attempts at goal but only 9 hit the target and only two gave much trouble to the Crewe keeper. Thankfully it all came together with ten minutes left as the Yorkshire Pirlo wrestled himself free at the near post for a right wing corner to clip the ball home and then, with Crewe shoulders finally drooping and Leeds players and fans alike boosted by the relief of a first goal, it was just a matter of how many more chances we’d fashion in the final minutes. I assume that the brave (or daft) lady who performed a fully clothed streak and who put up such a good fight against the stewards missed all the goals and was probably also on her first visit! She needs to watch how Kalvin got himself free of the Crewe defenders!
The second goal was a Bielsaball beauty! Meslier rolled it out to Klich, he sent the ball down the right wing to Bamford who drew men in before touching it inside to the unmarked Harrison who stopped it with a first touch and then performed a lovely little dink to feather the ball over the bewildered keeper. It was Bamford on the wing (never thought I’d be typing that) who again showed Costa what he should be doing as he collected another long ball, this time from Luke Ayling. Bamford cut it back to Roberts and again, with the whole stadium willing him to bury a pile-driver of a shot into the net he weakly side footed it again. The keeper of course got to it and it bounced back to the left foot of Jack Harrison and he showed how to do it as he speered a shot through a group of defenders that went in like an exocet missile.
So in the end it was comfortable but you have to wonder if we’d have got the same outcome had we not been able to call on Matty Klich and, particularly, Patrick Bamford for the final minutes. Let’s hope the win is now rewarded with a plum 3rd round tie in the draw on Wednesday night! Before that though, the first choice XI has to do a job at Turf Moor.
Leeds United Crewe A
Possession 73% 27%
Shots 28 4
On Target 9 1
Corners 9 1
Fouls Committed 13 8