Sheffield United 0
Leeds United 1 (Bamford 88)
I must admit, watching this game I was as nervous as I’ve been for a while! The longer the game went on the more devastating it would have been for Leeds to concede and it would have been unfair too on the balance of the game. Neither side could really have complained if the game had ended goalless as there wasn’t too much between them but maybe Leeds just had the edge in the crispness of our passing and, certainly with our usual domination of the possession and chances created.
That it was still goalless as late as the 88th minute was solely down to the quality shown by both goalkeepers who each made a couple of excellent saves. Illan Meslier’s point blank stop from John Lundstram in the first half will linger long in the memory and be classed up there with the great Gordon Banks stop from Pele in my mind!
Marcelo Bielsa told us last week that our conversion rate could not possibly stay at the heady levels we saw against Liverpool and Fulham and how it was important that we got back to creating more chances and we certainly did that; with 17 attempts at goal today of which a creditable 9 hit the target – usually Ramsdale in the home goal! Just the one found the back of the net and that was another fine goal from Patrick Bamford who continues to look a far better striker than many of us thought he was! He admitted this one came off his nose but at least he was there to, err, sniff out the chance.
Probably the most pleasing aspect today was the steady and calm look of the defence which was not unduly troubled even when that constant thorn in our side, Billy Sharp and the giant Yorkshireman Ollie McBurnie arrived as late substitutes. Robin Koch looks to be settling in nicely and, half close your eyes, you could easily have thought it was Ben White there alongside Liam Cooper, so balanced did they look. There was just one corner where we momentarily reverted to type and got away with a warning. This was a different look Leeds formation too, with three at the back and Stuart Dallas given a sort of roving midfield role. Maybe this is to ensure new signing Diego Llorente can slot in at some point. It worked well enough today. It's hard not to conclude that had Pablo Hernandez also been in this side then we could well have been purring over another classic Bielsaball performance.
In a Yorkshire derby, another strange feature of this game was that Leeds gave away only four free kicks in the entire game for foul play – I have never seen a figure that low before! The Blades gave away 18 just for comparison and that is a pretty normal figure in most games. It’s a sign of the discipline we were playing with, although it’s also a sign that referee Paul Tierney was refreshingly lenient with the challenges – even refusing Luke Ayling a few for his inevitable “flops”! Kalvin Phillips probably gave the watching Gareth Southgate a bit of a shudder though with his early ‘swing and a miss’ that saw him in the ref’s little book.
The name of the game in these early months of the season is to ensure we pick up points from the less money-rich sides and so far, that’s going well. We have to be honest and accept that wins against any of the so-called big-six will be a bonus, however well we continue to play, so wins against any of the rest are where the bulk of our points must come. A win at Bramall Lane is always a great result – they were one of the meanest defences in the Premier League last season conceding just 39 goals – but the manner of this performance in which we added defensive stability to our qualities augers well.
Sheffield Utd Leeds Utd
Possession 36% 64%
Shots 14 17
On Target 4 9
Corners 5 7
Fouls Committed 18 4