Salford City 0
Leeds United 3 (Nketiah 43, Berardi 50, Klich 58)
Marcelo Bielsa surprised all Leeds fans last night when he announced a very strong side including several of the acknowledged early season 1st XI; Casilla, White, Phillips, and Mateusz Klich all started at Salford as they did against both Bristol and Forest. It was enough to give us confidence that, barring any Leeds United Hari-Kari moments, we ought to be able to see off the fast rising reds with the added enthusiasm and pace of the likes of Nketiah, Costa, Shackleton and Jack Clarke.
And so it proved to be, although it has to be said that Salford, backed by several of their ‘Class of 92’ owners on the night and the on-looking Alex Ferguson, gave it a good go and pushed Leeds all the way with a spirited display of pacey attacking football. Salford managed 15 attempts at the Leeds goal, which is more than Bristol managed and double what we saw from Forest on Saturday. But Leeds had 18 attempts and of the eight that found the target, 3 went in and all were typically Bielsa crafted goals.
Eddie Nketiah looked sharp on his debut, smaller than I thought he’d be but very quick and alert and on the spot to knock in the low cross from Helder Costa to open the scoring just before half-time. It followed an inch-perfect through ball from Jamie Shackleton. Gaetano Berardi flicked the second in at the near post from a Costa right wing corner (not the first time Berardi has scored when captain of course!) and then Mateusz Klich rounded things off with a solo effort running from half-way just on the hour mark. It was a typical Klich curler that had the Leeds fans soon singing “Twenty yards or thirty yards…” This one from twenty yards for the record!
In many ways this was a very un-typical Leeds cup performance against a lower league side; normally we stumble in such encounters but we dealt with this one with the minimum of fuss and can regard it as a great work-out for the fringe players and for Costa and Nketiah who will surely feature regularly once they are considered ready by Marcelo. The only negative came with the appearance of Patrick Bamford, presumably thrown on with 12 minutes to go to see if he could bag a goal and some confidence. Sadly, the one long through ball he latched onto he was unable to convert and there remains for me a huge question mark hanging over his likely worth to the team this season. Nketiah is a totally different type of striker, small, nippy but with an apparent knack for being in the right place at the right time and it may well be that he will soon become the go to striker for the Championship games. We know Marcelo Bielsa is nothing if not loyal to his players but there must be a limit even to his patience with Bamford.
It was an enjoyable game to watch and the little Peninsula Stadium just about coped with the hordes of Leeds fans packed in there although the single container acting as a toilet block, with two urinals and two cubicles was a tad short of capacity and the parking situation was chaotic! Back to Elland Road in a couple of weeks for the visit of Stoke City as the next stage on this cup run and we play them three days before that too in the Championship. All eyes now on the trip to Wigan on Saturday to see who leads the line this time.
Salford City Leeds United
Possession 38% 62%
Shots 15 18
On Target 5 8
Corners 6 6
Fouls Committed 12 11