Another game down, another point on the board for Uwe Rosler and his team, as Leeds continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-1 draw at Elland Road. Sheffield Wednesday were the visitors, and took a 1 goal lead late in the first half courtesy of a fantastic strike from Marco Matias, flicking the ball over the head of Liam Cooper before crashing a first-time stirke in off the underside of the bar. Leeds fought back and equalised in the second half, Chris Wood finishing from close range after a sublime piece of skill from Stuart Dallas on the right wing. A well-earned point, some would say, after going a goal down, but the performance in the second half was a huge opportunity to take all 3, something which Uwe Rosler will be well aware of.
The first half, Matias' goal aside, was a predominantly dull affair. Phillips and Berardi both picked up yellow cards in a fractious opening that saw both teams struggle to take a firm hold of the game. The midfield pair of Phillips and Adeyemi, kept together by Rosler after their performance against Bristol in midweek, battled well enough, but were often bypassed by the defence who looked to play long, diagonal balls up to Byram, Wood and Dallas which, ultimately, came to nothing. Phillips had a nervous start to the game, losing possession on a few occasions, but found his confidence again as the half progressed. Mirco Antenucci was bright, as usual, looking to provide that link between the midfield and attack whenever he could, but you feel that the longer Leeds persist in firing passes up to the front three, the more futile it is having a player like Antenucci or Mowatt in the team at all.
Of course, Wednesday's goal would then come from a hopeful long ball, fired in the direction of Portuguese winger Marco Matias. Played just onside by Sol Bamba, Matias chased after the bouncing ball, pursued by Liam Cooper, only to flick it over the head of Leeds' number 6, before looping a first-time shot over the head of the stranded Marco Silvestri, the ball catching the underside of the bar on its way into the side of the net. That's football for you. Could Cooper have done more? Perhaps. It could be argued that a bit more physical presence could have forced the winger to rethink a first time strike, but it's hard to place blame on anyone with a goal like that. Sometimes you simply have to stand back and admire a great goal for what it is.
From then on, it was pretty much one-way traffic as far as the game was concerned, with Wednesday sitting deep and allowing Leeds to continue hitting long passes to their isolated frontmen. Stuart Dallas drove inside from the left a few minutes later, his low strike towards goal was slightly diverted by Chris Wood, but not enough to find the target. Lewis Price's face in the Wednesday goal said it all; no way he was getting to it had the ball found its mark. The first half ended with Leeds in a frustrating position, down 1-0 to a team seemingly happy to defend that lead, but you felt that, with a few changes, the game was there for the taking.
Those changes came early in the second half, Phillips and Byram making way for Mowatt and Murphy. Phillips had played well but was on a yellow card, while Byram had started brightly but faded away as the game wore on. After a massively impressive pre-season, Byram's willingness to take on full backs (an approach that worked very well for Dallas when moved to the right wing) has dropped, and the youngster is running the risk of losing his place in the starting line up. With Dallas so effective on the right, and Alex Mowatt waiting to get back into the first team, Byram could soon see himself on the bench if his performances don't improve. Berardi has all but cemented his place at right back, so there'll be no dropping back for Sam if Rosler decides to replace him.
Rosler's changes in recent weeks have been confusing at times, but the introduction of Murphy and Mowatt was exactly what Leeds needed. Suddenly, Murphy was coming short and demanding the ball from Silvestri and the defence, and Mowatt was backing Antenucci up in linking the midfield and front-line. The addition of Doukara late on was puzzling, to be fair, especially when Lee Erwin was sat on the bench, still waiting for a chance to show what he can do, but overall Rosler got it spot on. The second half was all Leeds, and the performance should have lead to more than one goal.
Ultimately, the highlight of the day for Leeds was the performance of the back four. Berardi, Bamba, Cooper and Taylor were hugely impressive once again, only beaten by Matias' wondergoal. Bamba, at times, looks like this league is too easy for him. He never loses an aerial challenge, constantly comes out of 50-50 challenges with the ball at his feet, and managed to take the ball halfway up the pitch in the build up to Chris Wood's equaliser. Charlie Taylor completed his 5th full match of the season out of 5 available, and once again proved just how talented he is. Often overlooked in terms of the "academy lads", Taylor has become completely undroppable since replacing Stephen Warnock in January this year, and tormented Wednesday down the left-hand side.
BIAS WARNING: How Tom Lees was given MOTM over Bamba or Taylor is completely beyond me. The Leeds-academy graduate completely lost Wood for the equaliser, and looked no more competent than Liam Cooper in the Leeds backline.
Pragmatically, 1 point is better than 0, and Saturday's draw leaves us unbeaten going into the Derby game this week, but from a fan's perspective I would rather have risked the point and gone for all 3. I think, given the way the game progressed in the second half, Leeds would have scored at least once more had they kept up the intensity shown prior to Wood's goal. Rosler was obviously on the same wavelength, but his introduction of Doukara was the wrong choice. From what I saw, it took the big Frenchman 5 minutes before he touched the ball after coming on for Dallas, when he was clearly meant to be an impact sub. If Leeds find themselves in a similar position come Saturday, one can only hope that Rosler doesn't look to Doukara again.
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