Match Report: Leeds United 1-4 Cardiff City - Supine Whites succumb to calamitous defeat
Sunday, 4th Feb 2018 11:36 by @LucasMonk_
On a torrid Saturday afternoon, Leeds United ceded crucial ground to their fellow play-off aspirants by suffering a humbling defeat at the hands of Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City for the second time this season.
Owing to a desultory and docile performance, Leeds United saw their aspirations of securing a play-off berth come the conclusion of the campaign suffer a seemingly terminal blow as a rampant Cardiff City side rendered them asunder with ease on Saturday afternoon.
United, who made a solitary alteration to the starting lineup that laboured to a hardly indelible draw away to Hull City on Tuesday night, fell behind as early as the ninth minute, when an unmarked Callum Paterson met Armand Traoré’s cross with a powerful header after they failed to clear a Joe Ralls corner.
Leeds endeavoured to mount a brisk response and, only a matter of moments later, Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s fierce, driven shot from approximately 30 yards was attentively attended to by Cardiff custodian Neil Etheridge.
The visitors then fashioned an opportunity to extend their slender advantage a mere four minutes later. From the right channel, Paterson crossed the ball for Yanic Wildschut - one of four January additions to start the match for the Bluebirds - but the Dutchman could only head the ball innocuously over the crossbar.
Despite the obtrusive hegemony enjoyed by Neil Warnock’s team throughout the early exchanges, the hosts were presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to restore parity in the 25th minute. After Matthew Pennington headed a Pablo Hernández corner wide of the mark only a moment prior, the creative facility of the latter was made plain once more when he crossed to the far post for Lasogga. Inexplicably, the German striker contrived to head the ball against the crossbar from close proximity before Ezgjan Alioski’s venomous volley on the rebound elicited a quite stupendous piece of goalkeeping from Etheridge.
The hosts then suffered further anguish when the imperious Sweden defender Pontus Jansson had to leave the field on a stretcher in the 26th minute. As United head coach Thomas Christiansen did not deign to name a central defender among his substitutes prior to the match, he called upon Northern Ireland winger Stuart Dallas to function as an extemporaneous right-back with Gaetano Berardi moving laterally into central defence.
Dallas soon partook in Leeds’ second conspicuous foray of the match in the 37th minute. After being played through on goal by Lasogga, the erstwhile Brentford player appeared to lose his footing as he struck a timorous effort toward goal, allowing Etheridge to perform a comfortable save.
The rampant Bluebirds soon capitalised upon Jansson’s absence to double their lead just four minutes later. An expeditious counterattack culminated in Paterson inadvertently turning provider for Junior Hoilett, as the former’s scuffed effort bobbled serendipitously into the path of the latter. Hoilett maintained his composure to stab the ball home into the unguarded net.
It was to get worse for United only minutes later when Berardi was shown a red card for the second time this season shortly before the half-time interlude. Gary Madine’s peerless acting beguiled the referee, Graham Scott, after Berardi attempted a slide tackle; the Swiss defender made little, if any, contact with his opponent, but, such was the quality of Madine’s embarrassingly melodramatic antics, Scott saw fit to issue him a second yellow card and dismiss him in acutely controversial circumstances.
From the consequent free-kick, City scored their third goal of what was a deeply vexatious first period for the hosts. Hoilett crossed the ball into the penalty area and Leeds, still ruminating over Scott’s ludicrous decision, meekly allowed Sean Morrison to power home his second goal of the season.
Neither manager elected to make a substitution during the interval, and so the teams emerged unchanged for the second half.
Leeds made a sprightly start to the half and finessed for themselves an opportunity to reduce the deficit in the 49th minute. Alioski found himself presented with an opportunity to shoot inside the Cardiff penalty area, but he was soon tackled by an opposing defender after dithering - much to the ire of the home supporters.
United would, however, slightly narrow the aperture between themselves and their opponents in the 54th minute. Traoré’s failure to intercept a searching pass by Laurens De Bock allowed Dallas to hurtle up the right and deliver a low cross into the penalty area, and Bamba suffered the ignominy of scoring an own goal after inadvertently stabbing the ball into the net.
Cardiff’s reaction to conceding that goal told much. Mirth, not melancholy. Frivolity, not frustration. It was clear then that the hosts did not possess even a meagre chance of mounting what would have been an epoch-making fightback. The Bluebirds negotiated the game’s remainder in a most facile manner and Bamba’s vagary was but a trifling price to pay for the conservation of their energy.
There remained time, however, for Paterson to cross for substitute Anthony Pilkington in the 88th minute, enabling the latter to score a fourth Cardiff goal to prompt an exodus of home supporters.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Berardi, Jansson (Dallas 30’), Pennington, De Bock; Forshaw, Vieira (Grot 86’); Alioski, Roofe, Hernández; Lasogga (Sacko 74’).
Unused Substitutes: Lonergan, Pearce, Vieira Nan, Anita.
Cardiff City (3-4-2-1) - Etheridge; Manga. Morrison, Bamba; Paterson, Grujić (Halford 82’), Ralls, Traoré; Wildschut (Pilkington 55’), Hoilett; Madine (Zohore 72’).
Unused Substitutes: Murphy, Damour, Feeney, Ward.
Half-Time: Leeds United 0-3 Cardiff City - Paterson (9’), Hoilett (41’), Morrison (45+4’)
Full-Time: Leeds United 1-4 Cardiff City - Bamba (OG, 54’), Paterson (9’), Hoilett (41’), Morrison (45+4’), Pilkington (88’)
Match Statistics (Leeds / Cardiff)
Possession: 63% / 37%
Attempts: 8 / 11
On Target: 4 / 5
Pass Success: 77% / 52%
Aerial Duel Success: 49% / 51%
Corners: 5 / 5
Fouls: 14 / 20
Booked: Berardi (Leeds), Grujić, Ralls, Pilkington, Madine (Cardiff).
Sent Off: Berardi (Leeds).
Man of the Match: Callum Paterson (Cardiff).
The 23-year-old Scotland international was, by an appreciable distance, the best performer on the field. Paterson won seven aerial contests and created two goals, in addition to scoring his fifth goal of the season to open the scoring and help Cardiff on their way to a comprehensive triumph.
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).
Another egregious performance of indolence, obeisance and pusillanimity by Leeds. The threat posed by Cardiff was plain for all to observe. United could not mitigate a powerful side that unapologetically harms opponents, wiles away time and makes a punctilious effort to get the ball forward as briskly as is possible. Thomas Christiansen’s team did not lose to a stellar, star-studded side that is the envy of the division; they lost to a robust, direct outfit that exude guile and Christiansen himself was utterly outdone by Neil Warnock, the Machiavelli of the Football League.
Machiavelli himself once said that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both”. Warnock’s teams often arouse almost universal loathing and fear for their crude, uncouth manner of attaining success - but attain success they do. Critics make reference to abrasiveness, gamesmanship and primitive football, and Warnock to the several promotions he has achieved in his lengthy managerial career.
Graham Scott’s performance was execrable, but equally so was that of Leeds. If a team wishes to achieve promotion from the Championship it cannot be so feeble, so unwilling to win by any means necessary. United supporters can lament for all the world Gary Madine’s melodramatics, Marko Grujić’s assailing of Stuart Dallas and Neil Etheridge’s wasting of time, but the Whites have only the moral high ground - Cardiff have three invaluable points.
It is patently - and painfully - clear that this United team are not crafty, dexterous or mettlesome enough to be a firm contender for a play-off berth, let alone promotion. Angus Kinnear, Leeds’ stunted slime of a managing director, should cease in his platitudinous defence of what is an effete and impotent team bereft of self-assurance, discipline and guile. Qualification for the play-offs is now an almost insurmountable task; after Fulham’s victory over Nottingham Forest, United are now seven points behind sixth-placed Bristol City. Andrea Radrizzani’s own target of finishing within the top six now appears completely unfeasible and this season now seems as though it will fizzle out into another ignominious failure. For that, Victor Orta, Leeds’ director of football, must accept responsibility. So too must Thomas Christiansen, but if one is to speak with candour he is but a meretricious marionette of Orta’s.
The laudable performances of defender Matthew Pennington and midfielder Adam Forshaw offered little solace to United supporters when Scott blew for full-time. An air of disenchantment pervaded Elland Road, but were there audible cries of discontent at full-time? Were imputations of indolence levelled at the - mostly - supine players who had just disgraced the white shirt with another etiolated performance? No, because by this juncture the stadium was only sparsely populated - the steadfastly loyal supporters had seen enough.
A season that promised so much now means so little. No hope, no harm; just another false alarm.
Photo: Action Images
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