Leeds U 1 (Sinisterra 55)
Everton 1 (Gordon 17)
30th August 2022, Premier League.
First things first; what a disgrace to the game are Everton? Yet another team to come to Elland Road and, from the first minute, try to ensure that the ball is in play for as little time as possible. Yet another weak referee allowed them to do it too. You have to say it worked for them though and we can only wonder how many we might have won by had the game been allowed to flow a bit quicker.
As to the Leeds performance, it was one of those Curate’s Egg type performances; good in parts. The tempo was there (when the ball was in play!) and, in the second half at least, we pretty much dominated the game as the statistics show; 70% of the possession and twice the shots that the visitors managed. Oh and 10 corners to 2… although we wasted pretty much all of them. This thing of having Aaronson chatting with Harrison over the corner flag for each corner would look clever if we ever beat the first man – presumably the intention of the extra man at the corner flag to draw another defender out of the middle? But we never do beat the first man! I had thought in pre-season that our corners looked more dangerous, but not today.
What else was wrong with our performance? Well, we were a bit slow at times getting the ball forward and then, more often than not the next ball was a diagonal ball, right to left, aimed at Jack Harrison who did look menacing. However, much like all those corners, every one of those umpteen diagonal balls was under-hit so that the defender headed it away before Jack could get to it!
Well, those were the poor aspects! And of course the error by Diego Llorente in effectively stepping over that through ball from Iwobi to Anthony Gordon; didn’t he do that same thing already in a game earlier this season? I’ve not checked but I’m sure he did! Giving a team like Everton an early lead is almost footballing suicide, it’s exactly what they needed to play out their game plan of slowing the game, stopping it in fact more often than not, and how the referee managed to allow only three minutes of added time at the end is beyond me.
But, the fact that we came on strong to dominate the second half was a positive and that despite losing Rodrigo after half an hour. It was the first match I can remember in which we had all three of our first team strikers on the pitch one after the other! All three had their moments too; Rodrigo should maybe have put away that early chance while Joffy had a couple of good efforts saved by the very annoying Jordan Pickford as did Brenden Aaronson with a cracking shot in the second half. Patrick Bamford looked good too when he was on for the final 15 minutes or so; let’s hope he’s now fully recovered and can start at Brentford with Rodrigo inevitably sidelined for at least that game and maybe more.
Another positive was the contribution of Luis Sinisterra who is starting to look like a worthy successor to Raphinha now he looks fully fit. His goal was the culmination of a clever move that had echoes of Bielsaball about it. A header clear by Kristensen to Roca, a nice flick on to Joffy and a sharp lay-off to Aaronson and a pass wide to the flying Columbian. Three little touches from Luis and then a cleverly disguised shot into the corner that wrong-footed Pickford. Lovely move.
I think we do have to all calm down a bit though and consign that Chelsea post-match hysteria to the history book. We look to me like a side that is just as good as the majority of sides outside of the big six but probably not much better than them and I’d hazard a guess that we will be mixing it with about a dozen sides below those elite teams. The games we’ve already seen against Wolves, Saints, Brighton and now Everton have all been so close and all could have gone either way or ended, as two of them did, in draws. I can’t get it out of my mind therefore that we caught Chelsea on a bad day – a bad day that was seemingly repeated tonight at Southampton. I’m sure our trip to Brentford on Saturday will be just as close as all the others and will turn on who can hit the target, who can get the rub of the green and who can avoid obvious mistakes on the day. We can beat the Bees… but they can equally beat us. It is going to be another tough season but we have a good squad and it’s still early days to be expecting the best from it, who knows, we may yet see a new face or two in the next few hours!
Possession 70% 30%
Shots 14 7
On Target 5 2
Corners 10 2
Fouls 10 9