|Leeds United 1 v 3 Norwich City|
Saturday, 2nd February 2019 Kick-off 17:30
Leeds go down to determined Norwich
Sunday, 3rd Feb 2019 10:57 by Tim Whelan
Leeds always had plenty of the possession against Norwich City, but it was the Canaries who left Elland Road with three points in this vital clash at the top of the Championship.
Marcello Bielsa made a couple of changes to his starting line-up. It was no surprise to see Jack Clarke returning to the bench after struggling with the close attention he was getting at Rotherham, with Tyler Roberts taking his place.
It’s the second change that has prompted far more debate since the game, with Phillips being the one to make way as Jansson returned from suspension, as some fans think he would have made it much harder for Norwich to pass their way through our midfield.
This game had been eagerly anticipated, and there was a great atmosphere inside Elland Road before the kick-off. But it didn’t take long before it all went a bit flat as Norwich took the lead inside five minutes. Trouble began when Jansson started one of his surging runs to take the ball out of defence, but took a heavy touch and lost possession. This left him well out of position, and he clattered into the back of a Norwich player as he raced back towards goal.
This meant a free kick in a dangerous position, which Vranic expertly chipped over the wall and into the top corner, to give Casilla no chance. The ball did take a slight deflection off the top of the wall, but that didn’t seem to have changed the direction of the shot. Leeds reacted by putting Norwich under pressure in the search for an equaliser, but couldn’t manage to create many clear-cut chances.
We always seem to struggle in games when the opposition uses Bielsa’s tactics against him, and Norwich worked very hard to crowd round the man in possession, while often looking dangerous on the break when they had the ball themselves. On several occasions Leeds had to resort to taking hopeful shots from distance, none of which were remotely close to being on target.
The closest we got to an equaliser came when Roberts was played through against Krul, who came racing out of his area and clattered Roberts just after our man had lifted the ball over the top of him. Some have said the Norwich keeper should have seen red, but he can’t have prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity when Roberts had already taken the shot by the time he made contact.
The ball had gone wide of the post, and the punishment for Norwich was a yellow card for Krul and a free kick on the edge of the box. Hernandez sent it into the wall and it came back to Klich, who sent the rebound over the bar. At that point we were well in the game, but although were dominating possession, it was the visitors who scored the next goal on 35 minutes.
Again it stemmed from Leeds giving the ball away in the middle of our own half. This time the culprit was Forshaw, who was far too casual as we passed the ball out from the back, though perhaps he should have got a shout of ‘man on’.
This led to a neat Norwich passing move on the edge of the box, and a shot from Vranic ran kindly through to Pukki as Jannson put in a block. Forshaw had compounded his original error by racing too far back and played the big Finn onside, so Pukki was left with the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.
We needed to pull one back before half-time, and Roofe produced our best effort to date as he beat several defenders on a run into the box, only to be denied by a fine save from Krul. Then Ayling did get the ball in the net from a corner, but it was ruled out as Jansson had fouled Krul by putting his arm across the keeper to stop him getting to the ball.
Once again Bielsa made a couple of changes at the break. Clarke came on for the ineffectual Harrison on the right, and Douglas replaced Hernandez, with Alioski being moved further forward on the left flank. Pablo had struggled to get into the game, perhaps because he’s not so effective wide on the left, though there have been suggestions he’s not fully fit after going off at Rotherham.
We expected these changes to have an immediate effect and Leeds to get straight back at Norwich, but it never really happened. Clarke was lively once again, but Norwich were always very quick to get two players across to him whenever he got the ball. In these days of blanket TV coverage of football you’re never a surprise package for long, and as soon as a good young player makes a name for himself he becomes a marked man.
Instead of creating chances, Leeds got more frustrated as we continued to fail to break Norwich down. Douglas was lucky to avoid a yellow card for three fouls on Buendia in quick succession, but Roofe was far less fortunate as he was booked for disputing a throw-in we should have had. Alioski is always a booking waiting to happen, and inevitably he got one as the game got ever more tetchy.
On 63 minutes Bielsa played his final card by replacing Roberts by Bamford, who is thankfully back to fitness after his latest injury problem. Once again I was left to fret about there being a lot of the game still to play with no further substitutes available, and once again we got away with it, with no injuries in the remaining time.
We did create one decent chance when Clarke sent an excellent low ball across the face of goal, but a defender reacted just in time to make a clearance before Alioski could pounce on it. Instead it was Norwich who grabbed the next goal of the game, to seal the victory with 12 minutes remaining and causing plenty of Leeds fans to rush to the exits, especially in the East stand.
Once again the move began with Leeds conceding possession inside our own half, and another incisive move ended with Vranic shooting home from a narrow angle. Of the three goals, this is the one when you might say that Casilla was at fault, though the ball did take a slight deflection before it came through to him.
And it could have got even worse a few minutes later, as the Norwich version of Hernandez sent a shot just wide of the far post at the end of yet another slick move. At the other end we were still pressing as time ran out, and Ayling should perhaps have done better than to head wide from a good position after a corner.
Then we moved onto four mintes injury time and the Patrick Bamford show. First he had a header saved by Krul, which clipped the bar on it’s way over. Then from the corner he rose above the Norwich defence to powerfully head home, and Roofe rushed to grab the ball and get back to the halfway line, though it was always going to be a tall order to get two more goals in the time that remained.
And so of course it proved, although Bamford’s late consolation may yet matter at the end of the season, as the two sides are pretty close on goal difference. And for what it’s worth, it meant that we beat Norwich 4-3 on aggregate over the two games between us.
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