Swansea City 2 (McBurnie 24, 51)
Leeds United 2 (Roofe 40, Hernandez 79)
The term ‘reality check’ will be heard a lot after that game in Swansea last night. Leeds had coasted serenely through almost every minute of the previous four games but last night’s encounter at the Liberty Stadium proved a much sterner test and showed what teams with a modicum of quality will be able to do to us as the season continues and as teams continue to learn what we are all about these days and how they can counter our particular MO.
It will also surely be a reality check for Marcelo Bielsa, they say you learn more from defeat than victory and though this was far from a defeat it gave a huge signal as to the sort of problems we will encounter if we fail to bring in a few more quality players on loan in the next ten days or so.
We all expected an unchanged side, and that was what came through on the mobile phone Twitter feeds as we downed the last of our pre-match pints. Yet up in the stands, watching as the teams emerged onto the floodlit stage of the Liberty, it was clear that it was Luke Ayling leading the side out and not Coops and that young Jamie Shackleton was lining up for the ritual hand-shakes. Bielsa had made much of the fact that he considers he has plenty of options as cover for the centre back positions but to actually see Luke Ayling line up alongside Gaetano Berardi will surely have caused him to seek at least one more ‘full time’ centre back for his squad.
Not that Ayling let us down at all, but the loss of him at full back and seeing Berardi try to deal with a typical Championship centre forward in Olie McBurnie was, if nothing else, food for thought. Jamie Shackleton did well enough in that right back berth and it was he who used his pace and skill to lash across the ball for Roofe to stab home our first equaliser but there were times in the game when defensively the young Shackleton bomber showed he hadn’t quite found the range.
With Kalvin Phillips booked early doors and then with the Swans gliding into the lead with a McBurnie toe poke that BPF wasn’t able to deal with, Bielsa showed he was quite prepared to think on his bucket and ring the changes and quickly introduced the more rapid and mobile Lewis Baker into the fray to try to regain the usual Leeds forward momentum that Swansea had found a way to interrupt. It worked too as shown by that Roofe equaliser just before the break.
The second half wasn’t very old before McBurnie had again given a lesson to our new centre back pairing. Unchallenged he was able to steer his header up and over the forlorn dive of Peacock-Farrell to give the Swans the lead again by a short neck… The introduction of Jack Harrison for Alioski at half time hadn’t really had time to affect the game before we found ourselves trailing again.
But Bielsa is nothing if not a trier and with half an hour to go he played his final card – sending on the taller more cultured if slower Patrick Bamford for the hustle and bustle of Kemar Roofe and it once again seemed to do the trick. The key feature though was that, as we entered the final fifteen minutes or so, it was crystal clear that the Swans were running out of steam – once again their fitness levels were not on a par with ours. Hence, when Bamford tricked van der Hoorn out on the Leeds left wing, he had nothing left to chase down even the sluggish trot forward from the Leeds number ‘9’. His low cross wasn’t the best either, but one Swans’ defender got his tired legs tangled trying to stretch to intercept it and then another was just too slow to prevent former Swan Pablo Hernandez ghosting in to slot home the second equaliser.
The good news was that a now significantly changed Leeds XI could easily have gone on to win the game, although over the 90 minutes a draw was probably a fair result with Bailey Peacock-Farrell making two goal-saving saves in that second half from McBurnie and the impressive Celina. But there are issues at the back for Leeds and surely another mobile and agile six footer is being lined up to wear that spare number ‘5’ shirt. It’s a must in the coming days I reckon. It will be too late for the trip to Norwich who will pose problems of a different sort I’m sure. To leave Norfolk still unbeaten will do for me! Oh, and I don’t like watching Leeds play against a side in all white… it’s just too confusing!
Swansea C Leeds Utd
Possession 44% 56%
Shots 12 8
On Target 4 3
Corners 2 5
Fouls 13 17