Up at silly O’Clock was the order of the day to make the lunch time kick off against Cardiff City. Despite that the Happy Chocker and Quiet One were on board as I gunned the car south towards the Principality. After Tuesday’s much needed victory there was a spark of optimism that the 10 hour round trip would be worth it especially with the Bluebirds stuttering start. The gloroius September sunshine bathed the spectactular Wye valley as we pondered the forthcoming match. Would Monk tinker with Tuesday's winning team? Would Sacko continue his impressive attacking play? Could we repeat last season’s surprising 2.0 victory?
Despite the early kick off the away end was packed in stark contrast to the rest of the stadium. Cardiff is still a troubled club with an uneasy relationship between the owner and fans which has impacted their on the field progress. Sounds familiar? Monk replaced the injured Bridcutt with Vieira and brought back Wood to lead the line in place of the unlucky Antonsson. All was set for an intriguing contest in front of the Sky cameras. The opening exchanges were scrappy and tense. Jansson was injured on ten minutes as he threw his body in front of a shot from Noone. The big Swede dusted himself down and carried on at the heart of a busy Leeds defence.
Cardiff were on the front foot and hit the post with a Morrison header before Leeds scrambled the ball away. Nerves were jangling amongst the 2,100 travelling fans but led by Jansson the Leeds defence were in a mean mood and repelled the Welsh attacks with true Yorkshire grit……..with a large dose of Swedish swagger. Leeds first real attack came on 20 minutes when Dallas finished a sweeping move with a shot low to the left of Amos in the Cardiff goal. The diminutive Hernandez followed up the Irishman’s attempt minutes later with a fizzing low shot that Amos again got down low to stop. Leeds attacking flair was to the fore again on 32 minutes but Wood’s finish after a delightful passage of play was……well Wooden!
The decibel levels were rising as the Leeds fans sensed this tight game was tilting towards the visitors despite some bizarre refereeing decisions. The worst was the booking of Ayling for a robust tackle on Richards that had the Cardiff man auditioning for an oscar on the turf while the Leeds man received a yellow card for a tackle that he clearly took the ball before the man. Half time arrived with the game goalless and the referee heading for the sanctuary of the dressing room to escape the “informed advice” he was receiving from the away fans.
The urinal philosophers had mixed views on the first 45 minutes. “Jansson is awesome” purred one defensive expert whilst another thought “Wood should have buried that chance” or words to that effect. I was pleased with the way the whole team were ever so slightly begining to look like a unit that had an effective game plan and were in general implementing it……unlike last Saturday against Huddersfield. Hernandez and Sacko were shining and Jansson was an absolute rock at the back. What we needed was that all important first goal.
The second half started in the same vein as the first with little between the two sides. Wood was enjoying one of his better games in a Leeds shirt and causing the Cardiff back four problems. On the hour he found space and fired a shot from a tight angle just over the bar. Hernadez was seeing more of the ball and his jinking runs were worrying the home team. Then on 62 minutes the tense deadlock was broken. Wood again found space on the end of an exquisite Hernandez pass but saw his shot deflected for a corner. As the corner floated across the ref blew and pointed to the spot. Connolly had Jansson in a perfect headlock but couldn’t understand why the penalty had been given! Up stepped Wood and buried the ball coolly in the corner of the net sending the 2,100 travelling fans into ecstasy. 1.0 Leeds. Mint! The way the Leeds team celebrated the goal showed the new togetherness the squad has.
Cardiff now threw caution to the wind as they went in search of an equaliser but all their efforts were sunk on the solid granite Swedish rock that is Pontus Jansson. He cleared anything that came into the box like it was an insult to his very soul that anyone would attempt to cross a ball into his territory. Instant cult hero status was being forged with the adoring Leeds fans. Hernadez and Sacko were now in their element as spaces opened up in the Cardiff defence. Both had chances to seal the game after scintilating moves swept Leeds down field but Leeds weren’t to be denied. On 82 minutes Hernandez capped off his best performance for Leeds with an absolutely stunning goal as he dribbled at the Cardiff defence and clipped a superb curling shot inch perfect into the top corner. 2.0 Leeds game over and carnage in the away end with Jansson pumping up the already adrenaline overdosed Leeds fans with his celebration. He’s a Swedish God!
Cardiff couldn’t make any impression on the Leeds goal in the remaining minutes and the game finished 2.0 to Leeds for the 2nd year running. A very encouraging team performance from a Leeds side unrecognisable from the previous Saturday. Jansson was my man of the match by a whisker from Hernandez who was outstanding. The now traditional “Sky TV is f****** S***” accompannied their post match interviews with Bartley and Jansson. One fan was complaining that Jansson had got the MOM because it suggested we were defending all the match but he did deserve the accolade. We’ve been waiting a long time to see a centre half dominate the opposition. Now we would appear to have the ultimate defensive rock in the tall Swede. Brilliant. Credit to Garry Monk for getting the blend spot on and to the whole team for a passionate and inspiring performance. Small green shoots of optimism after the dark clouds of gloom from last week. Football is a funny old game.
The trip home was an interesting one as the car broke down half way home and I didn’t get home until after midnight thanks to the excellent AA recovery service. Just the 18 hour round trip then. Still it was worth it to see Hernandez’s goal and the Swedish rock Jansson heading anything that moved in his box. Good times ahead for Leeds? A bit early but there are some good signs. Blackburn reserves in the cup next up.