Sunderland 0 Leeds United 2
What a performance that was! Ahead of the game I’m sure all Leeds fans felt like me that this would be just as tough a test as the Fulham game; more so as it was away from Elland Road in one of the more impressive Championship grounds. Add to that the uncertainty and the interruption to TC’s plans caused by Chris Wood’s impending “dream” move to Burnley…(did I really just write that?) and I was already hoping for a point at best. As a side note and aide memoire for Chris Wood I’d recommend he looks up the starting line-ups for the Premier League yesterday; Cook, Byram and Taylor all left us for Premier League football… yet none of them started for their respective sides … even Alex Mowatt was only the Barnsley bench!!!
Anyway, for the first ten minutes or so Sunderland looked very good, every bit as good as their early season form suggested. But then once the sting was taken out of the Sunderland attack with a series of good blocks, solid defending and a high pressing game from Leeds and with no noticeable support from the home fans, the Sunderland offensive wilted. By contrast, as Leeds got more into the game with some impressive passing and movement the away support just got louder and more inventive, the sound of “F*** Chrissy Wood” ushering in the new era.
This was a statement making performance from Leeds; if anything, the absence of Wood at the very least galvanised the rest of the team and perhaps showed that the players we have are actually more suited to playing without a big man up front. The movement of players like Sáiz and Alioski seemed less restricted and dare I say it, it almost looked like we had an extra man on the pitch, so one dimensional has been Chris Wood’s general play. If we can find a more all-round striker, good in the air and with his feet, and someone who is more mobile, then this may well prove to be the making of this side.
The work rate and togetherness of the side, overpowered Sunderland and they looked a very average side once we’d taken the lead. Maybe we ought to have been a couple of goals to the good by half-time but somehow that didn’t happen and it would take us another half an hour of the second to make the score line more reflect our superiority in the game.
The result at the Stadium of Light was always going to be a defining point for the start of our season; had we lost, then one win in four wouldn’t look too impressive and we’d still be filled with doubt, but having won so convincingly I’m sure the rest of the Championship will now be watching us closely. This Leeds squad is vastly stronger that what we had last season and even that was competitive for most of the last campaign. Yes, we do need to find an ace to replace Chris Wood but if we can find the right man, a player who more fits in with the style we now play with then the sky should be our only limit.
I’d now expect to see another completely different starting XI on Tuesday as we continue our Carabao Cup campaign but the thing is, it will still be a very decent and balanced looking XI, full of players who can easily slot into the first team if and when needed. These are optimistic times folks, enjoy it while it lasts!
Sunderland Leeds U
Possession 55% 45%
Shots 12 8
On Target 1 5
Corners 7 4
Fouls 13 9