Match Report: Leeds United 1-0 Norwich City - Jansson scores; workmanlike Whites conquer Canaries
Sunday, 17th Dec 2017 01:40 by @LucasMonk_
On a gelid Saturday afternoon at Elland Road, Leeds United continued their renaissance under head coach Thomas Christiansen as the Whites emerged from a tepid contest with Norwich City as 1-0 victors owing to Pontus Jansson’s deft header in the first half.
In their third match of the frenetic festive period, Leeds United produced an unremarkable, though competent, performance to inflict a marginal defeat upon Daniel Farke’s floundering Norwich City and secure three invaluable points in their gallant quest for play-off qualification.
Pontus Jansson’s second goal of the season - a deftly executed first half header - proved decisive for United, who also twice struck the aluminium through Kalvin Phillips and Samuel Sáiz.
Head coach Thomas Christiansen elected to make a sole alteration to the starting lineup that comfortably defeated Queens Park Rangers by a 3-1 scoreline at Loftus Road last weekend, with Paweł Cibicki afforded a starting berth on the right channel after Caleb Ekuban’s sustaining of a fractured foot in West London. Furthermore, Kemar Roofe was selected as the lone forward by Christiansen after his dexterous hat-trick secured victory for Leeds in their most recent outing, while custodian Felix Wiedwald, in spite of his late vagary in the same match, was once more preferred in goal to Andy Lonergan.
After a statutory coin toss, it was the right of the visitors to begin proceedings with Leeds facing the South Stand for the first half.
United made a sprightly start to the match. On six minutes, Samuel Sáiz sought Paweł Cibicki on the right with an incisive pass. The Swede then promptly passed to Kalvin Phillips, who chanced his arm from 25 yards - only to see his arcing effort go wide of the mark.
The next 11 minutes would prove insipid, bereft of productive football of any form. Norwich, who entered this match having secured their first win since October against Sheffield Wednesday in their previous fixture, would then muster their first attempt on target. An erroneous kick upfield by Leeds’ goalkeeper, Felix Wiedwald, fell serendipitously to City’s dynamic and diminutive midfielder Alex Pritchard, whose subsequent effort from outside the area stung the palms of the German custodian.
Nine minutes passed before United responded with an attempt of their own. Gaetano Berardi ventured forth into the opposing half as the hosts sought to establish for themselves a first half advantage, and the Swiss defender, who is still yet to score his first goal in professional football, unleashed a venomous driven shot that fizzed agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.
Two minutes thereafter, and United won a free-kick on the right channel after Cibicki was felled by a careless defensive challenge on the part of a Norwich defender. Consequently, Cibicki produced a delivery of some precision that was met by the head of Luke Ayling, but the latter’s header lacked the necessary power to beat City goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
Norwich then manufactured their first conspicuous goalscoring opportunity of the match - in the 34th minute. A consummate backheel by Nelson Oliveira permitted James Maddison to surge toward goal, but an impeccably timed tackle by Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips precluded Maddison from opening the scoring to the perceptible relief of United’s faithful supporters.
Leeds would then be denied the lead in circumstances most unfortunate. The hosts were again presented with a free-kick in a propitious position - this time on the left channel. Ezgjan Alioski’s splendiferous delivery was diverted toward goal by an outstretched Phillips, who could only observe with exasperation as the ball was acquainted with the aluminium for the first time in the match. The ball subsequently fell to Cibicki, who unleashed a fierce strike that was halted only by a defiant block by a Norwich defender.
United finally opened the scoring a minute later, after the referee, Darren England, awarded the hosts another free-kick on the right wing. From the ensuing set-piece, Cibicki produced a sumptuous cross that was deftly headed into the back of the net - with the aid of the post - by central defender Pontus Jansson to prompt ebullient celebrations among the Leeds fans. The goal was Jansson’s second of the season and the assist Cibicki’s second in as many matches.
Norwich then dissipated a chance to equalise on the threshold of the half-time interlude. After United momentarily cleared a City corner-kick, the ball fell in a benign manner to Oliveira, whose rasping, curling effort was parried clear by Wiedwald before Maddison impetuously lashed the ball over the crossbar.
Neither head coach elected to make any alterations to their respective starting lineups during the interval, and so the sides emerged for second period unchanged with Leeds restarting the match as Norwich had begun it.
The first discernible attacking act of the second half arose in the 49th minute; after running onto a through ball by Maddison, Marley Watkins crossed the ball into the United penalty area. The ball eluded both Leeds defender Liam Cooper and Norwich forward Oliveira before it fell fortuitously to City’s Pritchard, whose effort from close proximity elicited an attentive save from Wiedwald in the home goal. Seconds thereafter, Harrison Reed’s wild effort soared innocuously over the crossbar for the visitors.
United’s next conspicuous attempt to double their slender advantage came some 14 minutes later, after a thoroughly prosaic period in the match. A driven attempt from distance, packed with power, by Sáiz necessitated a good save by Norwich goalkeeper Gunn, who parried the ball behind for a corner kick. Following the consequent set-piece, the ball fell to Phillips who, from all of 30 yards, produced a formidable shot that flew past the left-hand post.
It would then be the turn of the visitors to venture into the Leeds half in pursuance of an equalising goal. Oliveira evaded, with appreciable guile, several defensive challenges but was halted by a timely intervention on the part of Jansson. Controversy then eventuated as Oliveira feigned anguish so as to prompt the referee to admonish the Swedish defender, and his puerile antics were not looked upon with copious fondness by the majority of spectators in attendance at Elland Road.
City refused to relent in their diligent pursuing of a goal, but when Maddison chanced his arm in the 70th minute, Jansson was on hand to again avert the danger by blocking the former’s attempt.
With the game’s conclusion now fast approaching, Leeds were presented with a gilt-edged chance to double their lead in the 73rd minute. An execrable clearance by Gunn fell for Kemar Roofe, United’s alacritous hat-trick hero at Loftus Road last weekend, but indecision on the part of the erstwhile Oxford talisman resulted in him spurning the opportunity - much to the palpable ire of the home supporters.
Only a mere minute later, and Norwich’s Pritchard was desperately unfortunate not to have equalised for the visitors. After swivelling on a sixpence, his exquisite effort from distance arced as it travelled in the air but he could only look on with vexation as the ball hit the crossbar and bounced out of play.
Wiedwald, who had been the subject of much vituperative criticism following his late vagary at Loftus Road last weekend, was then called into action once more. A Norwich free-kick saw Maddison pass for Pritchard, whose curling effort, which appeared destined for the top corner, was kept out by a masterly save from the German goalkeeper.
United would then be inadvertently afforded a most enticing chance to secure victory. With ten minutes of normal time remaining, a meek pass by City’s Grant Hanley was seized upon by Sáiz. As the diminutive Spaniard raced through on goal with only Gunn to best, each and every Leeds supporter within Elland Road rose in eager anticipation. To their profound horror, Sáiz’s attempt to calmly convert the opportunity by using the inside of his right foot saw the ball bobble against the post before Norwich’s Timm Klose cleared the ball to safety.
The visitors continued to play assiduously as they sought to finesse for themselves an equalising goal that would surely have seen them obtain a valuable point away from home, but the introduction of both hefty forward Cameron Jerome and adroit playmaker Wes Hoolahan did not come to pay dividends for the East Anglian side. Norwich could not carve United asunder to create a clear goalscoring opportunity and there remained time for Pablo Hernández, who had replaced Roofe for the hosts, to enjoy a wondrous exchange of passes with Alioski prior to curling a delectable effort toward goal that hit the side netting.
The last blast of the referee’s whistle was met with vociferous cheers of approval from the home supporters, who bore witness to a workmanlike performance from Leeds. Following Sheffield United’s 1-0 defeat to Preston North End at Deepdale, United, having accrued three precious points after recording a first clean sheet at Elland Road since September, are now a solitary point behind the Blades, and victory over Hull City next Saturday will thus propel Thomas Christiansen’s team into the top six.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips, Vieira; Cibicki (Pennington 85’), Sáiz (Grot 81’), Alioski; Roofe (Hernández 78’).
Unused Substitutes: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Anita, O’Kane.
Norwich City (4-2-3-1) - Gunn; Pinto, Hanley, Klose, Stiepermann (Hoolahan 83’); Reed, Vrančić (Jerome 83’); Pritchard, Maddison, Watkins; Oliveira.
Unused Substitutes: McGovern, Zimmermann, Trybull, Tettey, Murphy.
Half-Time: Leeds United 1-0 Norwich City - Jansson (41’)
Full-Time: Leeds United 1-0 Norwich City - Jansson (41’)
Match Statistics (Leeds / Norwich)
Possession: 44% / 56%
Attempts: 12 / 14
On Target: 3 / 4
Pass Success: 65% / 78%
Aerial Duels: 44% / 56%
Corners: 5 / 4
Fouls: 16 / 16
Booked: Jansson, Cooper, Vieira (Leeds). Hanley, Oliveira (Norwich).
Man of the Match: Pontus Jansson (Leeds).
After a slipshod start to the present season, United’s 26-year-old Swedish juggernaut has forged a resolute partnership with Liam Cooper at the heart of the Leeds defence in recent weeks. Jansson once more produced an imperious performance in this match and was successful in all of the aerial duels he contested and all of the tackles he attempted, in addition to making 12 clearances and scoring a decisive goal - his second of the season - to determine the outcome of the fixture. His unerring, infallible performances since joining Leeds from Serie A outfit Torino in 2016 have rightly established him as one of the Championship’s most formidable defenders, capable of marking even the division’s most potent and prolific attackers into feeble silence.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Referee: Darren England.
This was a competitive match, and for much of its duration the visitors performed in a manner that belied their lowly placing of 16th in the Championship table. As had been the case in their last home match against Aston Villa at the beginning of the month, set-pieces were the mother of the majority of United’s goalscoring opportunities and Thomas Christiansen’s charges did not create, with regularity, conspicuous chances in open play - though it should be noted that Norwich were equally impotent in that regard with their only means of causing consternation for Leeds being the individual finesse of Alex Pritchard.
I was contented once more by the performances of Pontus Jansson, a man considered by myself and many other beholders to have been United’s most stellar player on the day, and Paweł Cibicki, who produced another splendiferous cross to aid Jansson in scoring the winning goal. Another player who merits fulsome praise is Kalvin Phillips, who again performed industriously in central midfield alongside Ronaldo Vieira. Rather dispiritingly, Kemar Roofe did not play with the same prolificacy that saw him score that wondrous hat-trick against Queens Park Rangers in his previous match, but he was afforded little in the way of adequate service on a gelid afternoon - Cibicki is the only attacker who posed a clear threat to Norwich in this match and who can emerge from it with any praise.
Moreover, though this was an eminently unremarkable Leeds performance in an eminently insipid encounter, the team performed quite sedulously and exuded great tenacity to record the victory. United may not have put Norwich to the sword with the ruthlessness of a depraved dictator from the Middle East as we had all hoped they would prior to kick-off, but they still manufactured a competent performance and recorded a first clean sheet at home since September. This showing, I ardently believe, is further incontrovertible proof that Christiansen has been most successful in his quest to make Leeds more difficult to defeat than they have been at previous junctures this season, and this augurs well for the remainder of this frenetic festive period and the season in its entirety.
Lastly, I am doubtless in my belief that the visit of Hull City next week shall prove to be equally competitive as today’s fixture was. Nigel Adkins has foolishly chosen to burden himself with an unenviable and thankless task at the KCOM Stadium but despite Hull’s doleful season, there is no such thing as a facile match in this division and United must perform with resilience as they have done today to inflict defeat upon their Yorkshire rivals and elevate themselves into the top six.
Photo: Action Images
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