Leeds United 2 (Nketiah 67, Helder Costa 81)
Stoke City 2 (Batth 39, Vokes 44)
(Stoke win 4 - 5 on penalties)
An annoying result, this young Leeds team deserved more from a game they dominated against much more experienced - if poor quality - Stoke City. I guess Bielsa knew he was taking a risk with a tiny centre -back pairing but game time for Shackleton and Davis was his main thought, not where they played.
Ah that was a shame, the Carabao Cup is not anywhere near the top of our list of priorities this season and yet it was still a disappointment that we went out as we did. I thought this young Leeds line-up outplayed an experienced Stoke side for the majority of the game and deserved to have progressed. Sadly, in football you often don’t get what you deserve.
I always thought the back line Bielsa chose last night would be susceptible particularly with youngsters Leif Davis and Jamie Shackleton in the middle at the back, neither of whom is more than 5ft 6” ! My guess is Bielsa was more concerned about getting them a game for their match-fitness than where they actually played on the pitch. And so it was no surprise that a powerful, experienced striker like Sam Vokes caused them problems. Never the less, we can only speculate what the outcome might have been had Nketiah’s wonderful curling shot gone in rather than hit the post whilst Leeds dominated Stoke early in the game.
Two Stoke goals at the end of the first half looked to have sealed the game but Bielsa was obviously determined not to merely accept a tame defeat and he made all three of his substitutions at the break – Ben White re-addressed that height imbalance at the back for Shackleton, Adam Forshaw added steel in midfield replacing the ineffectual Alfie McCalmont and Jack Harrison replaced an anonymous Jack Clarke. I cannot fathom what has happened to Clarke these days but he is a shadow of the player we saw when he broke through this time last year and that £10m looks pretty good business to me. The changes were just enough to both strengthen our resolve at the back and give impetus to push on at the front and once again Leeds dominated for the remainder of the game and deserved (that word again) to win it.
Hence even as the penalties began I was hoping against hope that the young lads would scrape through and get the job done, unimportant as it is in the scheme of things this season. It didn’t happen and we move on.
The way Nathan Jones celebrated with the Stoke fans at the end of the game suggested they are believing they might have turned a corner but it came over as tacky and unprofessional – this Stoke side was as poor as the one we saw on Saturday and I’d bet on them being a League One side this time next season and “Nathan Jones you’ve been gone too long” will ring out at the Bet365.
For Leeds we return to the main agenda, a return hopefully of Cooper, Alioski, Ben White for a full game, Klich and, the prince of Castellon, Pablo Hernandez for the top of the table clash with Swansea before we all have a well-earned two weeks off!
Leeds Utd Stoke City
Possession 71% 29%
Shots 18 12
On Target 3 4
Corners 9 4
Fouls Committed 9 13