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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Leeds Utd v Atalanta. 30th July 2016.

Atalanta were the visitors to Elland Road for Leeds United's final game of their pre season. I joined a healthy crowd of 12,000 heading for the Theatre of Hope to get a glimpse of Garry Monk's new look Leeds team before hostilities start in earnest at QPR next Sunday. Elland Road was buzzing partly due to yet another potential takeover this time from a Chinese consortium and partly from fans trying to secure the new home and away shirt. There was a comforting sense of familiarity as I settled into my seat with MOT ringing round the ground as the game got underway. Another season was about to engulf us with all the expectations, hopes and fears that accompany the privilege of following the mighty whites.

Leeds had Green in goal with a back four of Taylor, Bartley, Bamba and the trial its Perico at right back. Mowatt, Diagoraga and Viera formed a middle three with Dallas and Roofe out wide. Wood was up front. Both teams started brightly with the Italian Serie A side moving the ball confidently on  the pristine surface. For Leeds Roofe and Wood looked sharp up front as the home side tried to apply some early pressure. The 140 Atalanta fans were making plenty of noise to try and lift their team but Bartley and Bamba were repelling most of the Italian attacks with some assurance. One thing I hadn't heard for a long time at Elland Road was the sound of the goalkeeper haranguing and organising the defence in front of him. Perico not surprisingly struggled at right back as he tried to impress the Leeds head coach.

Wood was clearly irrating the Italian defenders as they started to drag him down and molest him each time the ball came. On 25 minutes Leeds got a free kick out wide from such a transgression. As the ball floated delightfully into the box an Italian hand tried to rip the shirt off the back of a Leeds player.......penalty! They are nice shirts though. Leeds had the ball in the net but the ref had already blown. Wood had a quick check to make sure Antenucci hadn't appeared on the field before he calmly slotted the ball home for the opening goal. 1.0 Leeds.

Leeds held the lead for just 6 minutes though as slick passing opened up the Leeds defence for a well taken goal by D'Alessandro. 1.1. As the game headed for half time Leeds blended some obvious ring rustiness with some neat moves usually involving Viera, Roofe, Taylor and Wood. Right on half time Wood took a solid punch to the head from the opposing goalie as he went for his second goal. Half time 1.1. For me it was an encouraging 45 minutes. Roofe had shown glimpses of skill, Viera belied his age to put some good passes together in the heat of central midfield. Bartley added some much needed height to the back four. Perico was replaced by Coyle for the second half and Sacko came on for Dallas.

Leeds now had an interesting array of talent on the pitch with Viera, Sacko and Roofe all who possess some pace that we have lacked for a number of years. Atalanta looked dangerous on the attack though and broke quickly. Taylor, Bamba and Bartley we're all a stretched by the Italians but stood firm with Rob Green very solid behind them. The Kop serenaded him with "England's Number One" I'm sure last time he came to Elland Road the same Kop regaled him with " You let your country down"?

The game livened up with the help of a few juicy tackles from both sides  and it was the home side who drew the most impetus from the clashes. On 68 minutes Leeds forced a corner after pressure and the ex Oxford man, Roofe, forced the ball home from the near post. 2.1 Leeds and a goal from a corner! This season's already looking bright. Sacko and Viera showed some classy skills as they tried to escape the suffocating Italian mid field as the game headed for the last 15 minutes. Botaka, Antonnsson and Murphy had a run out for the last 10 minutes as Leeds saw the game out for a comfortable win.

I left the ground encouraged with the new faces in the team especially Viera, Roofe and Sacko. Rob Green and Bartley also impressed whilst Wood looked a lot sharper than last year. Thing is can they do it on a wet night in Barnsley? Time will tell. In the meantime we head for QPR next Sunday full of hope. A week's a long time on Planet Leeds though.... Can't wait. MOT

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