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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

EFL Quarter Final. Liverpool v Leeds Utd. 29th Nov 2016.

Liverpool v Leeds Utd is a fixture that evokes misty eyed memories amongst all generations of Leeds fans. Flashbacks of securing the title at Anfield, Yeboah in his pomp, Viduka’s foursome and Keegan and Bremner cock fighting at Wembley are just a few of the tantalising memories rewound by the 5,500 Leeds as they made their way to Anfield. Different times though. Leeds still remain in the championship wilderness whilst the Reds are strutting their stuff near the summit of the Premier League with a squad littered with multi millionaire super stars. Question was could Monk’s band of brothers pull off a cup shock at the iconic Anfield Stadium in front of the Sky cameras?

As it happened just getting to Anfield in time for the kick off was an achievement in it’s self as a billion traffic cones on the M62 and a gridlocked Liverpool conspired to frustrate the travelling Mighty Whites army. What a nightmare. So when we arrived with just 5 minutes to kick off there was no time to waste as we scuttled to our seats. The traditional rendition of YNWA by the home fans was raucously challenged by a passionate chorus of Marching on Together belting out from the rapidly filling away end. The scene was set for a cracking cup tie in front of a packed Anfield. The hairs on the back of my neck were rock solid as the game got under way.

Both managers had shuffled their teams as is the way nowadays……….still don’t understand that? Couldn’t imagine Shanks telling Tommy Smith or Revie telling Norman Hunter that they were going to be rested for a game like this? Any how Silvestri, Berardi, Vieira,and Dallas came in for Leeds with Doukara going up top in place of Wood and Roofe playing in the No 10 role. Game on.

Leeds laid down an immediate marker for the evening as they attacked the kop end. Dallas slid Sacko in with a lovely ball forcing a nervous save from Mignolet. Decibel levels in the away end went through the roof. Clearly Monk had given his band of brothers a licence to attack. No cagey game of chess with the Premier League high flyers for Mr Monk. Go and show everybody what we can do seemed to be the message from the Leeds Chief………and that’s exactly what they did. Delicious!

Roofe, on his way to a man of the match performance, combined on 10 minutes with O’Kane to fire a shot goal wards. Again Mignolet made the save. The atmosphere amongst the Leeds fans was electric. Some may have moaned when they saw the team sheet but they weren’t moaning now as Leeds slugged it out toe to toe with Liverpool. A chorus of “stand up if you hate Man U” from the Leeds end swept around the ground like wildfire as the Scouse fans eagerly accompanied their Yorkshire foes. Liverpool’s skillful one touch football tested the young Leeds team but they were equal to it. Charlie Taylor was like a limpet to Mane as he added yey more credit to his burgeoning reputation. Bartley was immense giving more strength to the question as to why Swansea let him go out on loan?

O’Kane was injured on the half hour to be replaced by Phillips. The Leeds midfield boiler room was now controlled by Phillips and Vieira……..if they’re good enough they’re old enough! Leeds continued to take the game to Liverpool as the Premier League title hopefuls looked rattled as did their fans. “Where’s your famous atmosphere” the away fans taunted amongst a plethera of ironic and self deprecating chants tumbling from the massed ranks behind Silvestri’s goal. A single fan sat in the home end end proudly wearing his Leeds scarf caught the attention. “He’s Leeds United, he’ll sit where he wants”

The game continued at a frenetic pace with each team looking to attack. Silvestri made a couple of acrobatic saves to keep the scores level and Phillips drilled in a sweet shot that was blocked as half time beckoned. HT 0.0. The players trooped off to the strains of Marching on Together echoing in their ears. Mint.

As is the case in recent weeks there weren’t any dissenters amongst the urinal philosophers. “We can win this” one fan gushed. “Roofe gets better each week” another enthused. “Taylor will have every man and his dog ringing his agent the way he’s playing” was a more sobering thought. Could Leeds snatch the lead and then hang on? We were about to find out.

Another injury blow for Leeds as Cooper retired at the break with Ayling coming on to play alongside Bartley. Leeds flew at Liverpool from the kick off pressing them into nervous mistakes. As a result Roofe collected the ball on the edge of the box and curled a superb shot beyond Mignolet only to see it hit the post and bounce away to safety. Bollox! If that had gone in ………………….

Minutes later that man Roofe rose to head the ball just wide from a delicious cross from Taylor. Leeds were so tantalisingly near taking the lead it hurt. At the other end Can tested Silvestri but the Italian shot stopper held firm. Just after the hour with the Leeds fans trying to suck the ball into the net Leeds won a corner. Taylor struck the perfect corner………….Bartley rose majestically………Get innnnnnnnnnn! I screamed as the ball glanced off his head and excruciatingly just over the bar. A minute later that man Roofe again got another shot away to test Mignolet. “We’re going to win this” I enthused. Nobody disagreed around me but had we spurned one too many chances? Wijmaldum suddenly suggested that we had as he finished off a sweet move by clattering Silvestri’s post. Leeds legs were tiring.

Football alway has and will continue to be a cruel game. On 76 minutes Liverpool proved that to be the case. Liverpool attacked again. A teasing cross came in from Alexander-Arnold and Origi poked the ball in for the opening goal. 5,500 fans behind Mignolet’s goal had a sharp intake of breath before seconds later launching into a defiant chorus of “we are Leeds, we are Leeds, we are Leeds” If Liverpool thought that the small matter of them scoring was going to stop the continuous wall of noise coming from the Leeds fans they were sadly mistaken.

Liverpool saw their chance and went for the Leeds jugular. More swift attacking, more skillful passing interchanges and suddenly substitute Woodburn was left with a tap in to double Liverpool’s lead and drive a stake through the heart of Leeds United. 8 minutes left for Leeds to rescue the game. With the odds stacked heavily against them Leeds could have rolled over and accepted their fate but they didn’t. Sacko was released by Doukara and hurtled into the Liverpool box in the inside right position, ask your Dad, but with Wood free and unmarked square of Sako the young lad went for the Hollywood finish and smashed the ball into the Leeds fans behind the goal. Arrrrgh!

Wood then had a goal chalked off for offside and missed a header from 8 yards out as Leeds closed the game out with a flurry. Not enough to take the game to extra time as the ref blew his whistle to signal a Liverpool win to the strains of yet another rendition of Marching on Together. A fantastic effort from Leeds even in defeat and a performance that shows real encouragement for the rest of the season. Roofe, Bartley and Taylor were awesome but it would be pedantic to choose a man of the match after such an impressive team performance. Garry Monk is doing an incredible job with this squad of players. The post match media reports focused on how young the Liverpool side was ignoring the fact that Leeds’ average age of the team was lower than their illustrious opponents. Still this was a performance to be hugely proud of. What an incredible night.

The least said about the journey home the better. The traffic cones had multiplied ten fold during the match and Liverpool’s testing road system was in gridlock due to an accident. Absolute bollox. Still it was a cracking game. Bring on the Villa!

Can’t wait.

MOT.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Rotherham Utd v Leeds Utd. 26th Nov 2016.

Sky Sports Leeds once again dictated another ridiculous kick off time for the mighty whites but that wasn't going to stop another sell out away following making the short trip down the M1 to the New York Stadium and an intriguing Yorkshire derby against Rotherham. After last week's reverse against Newcastle and more challenging games coming up against Villa and Brighton this game had suddenly become one Leeds needed to win to maintain their momentum that has seen them climb to 7th in the table. What should be a relatively easy game for Leeds based on current form was tempered by the fact that Rotherham have become a bit of a bogey team for Leeds in recent years.

Garry Monk’s team selection saw Sacko come in for Vieira and Cooper replace the suspended Jansson. Roofe was moved to the No 10 role to try and plug the gap that the injured Hernandez has left. The chilly South Yorkshire evening greeted the players as the game got underway. Leeds were on the front foot from the start but their initial momentum was stalled by a bad injury to Greg Halford in his own box. After a long delay Leeds soon picked up where they left off and camped in the Rotherham half as they looked for an early lead against the Championship’s basement club. Doukara was pulled down as the Millers struggled to contain the rejuvenated Leeds forward. Leeds took the kick quickly and released Taylor on the left. The Leeds full back thundered into the box, pulled the ball back for Chris Wood to finish with ease. 1.0 Leeds. Get in!

Leeds continued to dominate possesion in a way that dismissed any suggestion they would be hungover after last week’s defeat to Newcastle. Cooper saw his header just miss to the left as Leeds piled on the pressure. Odemwingie did have the ball in the net after a rare Rotherham attack but the linesman’s flag acknowledged a perfectly synchronised Leeds back four and chalked the goal off for offside. Leeds were opening up Rotherham almost at will. Ayling slotted a ball behind the Millers full back for Sacko but Camp in the Rotherham goal just beat the Leeds winger to the ball. He injured himself in the process and yet another long delay in the game. On the half hour Odemwingie received a straight red for a ridiculous elbow that floored Liam Cooper. This was turning into a stroll in the park for Leeds as a place in the top six beckoned. To add to Rotherham’s woes their goalie, Camp, limped off injured to be replaced by Lewis.

Leeds continued to dominate with some crisp interpassing stretching Rotherham from one side of the pitch to the other. If the finishing had matched the build up play Leeds would be out of sight already. Phillips hit a shot high into the stands quickly followed by Doukara slamming his shot wide and into the advertisement hoardings. Just when I was thinking we would get to half time with just the one goal lead Doukara finished cleverly after good play by Roofe. 2.0 Leeds and half time against 10 men Rotherham. Surely Leeds were on for a hat full against a very ordinary Rotherham side down to 10 men in the 2nd half?

Leeds continued their dominance of the game in the 2nd period. Sacko tried an audacious volley from the first attack as he fizzed his shot just over the bar from 25 yards. Another goal now and the Millers will be done I mused. Phillips was next to see sight of goal but pulled his shot wide. It was all too easy for Leeds and as the game passed the hour mark Bartley powered a header towards goal forcing a good save from Price. Dallas replaced Doukara and then Antonsson swapped with Roofe. The young ex Oxford man had played well in the Hernandez role. Leeds were cruising to victory without too much trouble. Problem was collectively they all thought the game was won and in true Leeds style were about to put their fans through an excruciating last ten minutes in a game that should have been put to bed a long time ago.

Rotherham found some energy for a final fling and unnerved the Leeds back four with some robust attacking. Suddenly their was an element of panic in the defending. A last ditch block denied Vaulks a goal as the ball was scrambled away for a corner. Leeds failed to clear the corner and Wood somehow found space to head the ball beyond Green. 2.1 and game on. 5 minutes left. Leeds couldn’t throw two points away after so much dominance could they? Well they had a bloody good go! Rotherham were suddenly alive as they sensed the Leeds nerves. Vaulks skipped through and sent a shot goalwards only to see Green finger tip the ball round the post. The ball seemed to be stuck in the Leeds half. Another scramble in the Leeds box saw Ball hoof the ball over the Leeds bar when it looked aesier to score. FFS Leeds get a bastard grip. 4 minutes added time to survive! Berardi replaced Sacko as Garry Monk tried to shore up the defence. This was torture……….not for the first time in my long career watching Leeds mind you! Somehow Leeds survived and grabbed three points that lifts them to the dizzy heights of 5th in the table. Mint! Final score 2.1 Leeds.

Leeds had 75% possesion and should have buried Rotherham way before their last hurrah nearly made Monk’s men pay for taking their foot of the gas too early. Still it was a win at Rotherham something we last managed in a different century. Bartley was commanding at the back and both full backs again performed well. Cooper deputised for Jansson admirably. The fans were left frustrated though after going in at half time with momentum against ten men the least that was expected was another goal to kill the game and then cruise to victory. After saying that we’d have lost this game last year. 5th in the table as well with a trip to Anfield to saviour. All of a sudden life is sweet on Planet Leeds.

Can Leeds spring a surprise at high flying Liverpool on Tuesday then follow it up with a win at home to Villa? Now that would be asking too much wouldn’t it? Bring it on!

Can’t wait!

MOT.

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