|Leeds United 1 v 0 Brentford|
Wednesday, 21st August 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Leeds United 1-0 Brentford - Whites worst Bees to go top of league
Thursday, 22nd Aug 2019 09:41 by Lucas Monk
Leeds United returned to the summit of the Championship owing to a hard-fought victory over Brentford at Elland Road on Wednesday evening.
By dint of an industrious, workmanlike performance, Leeds United are top of the Championship once more.
It appeared for some time that they would find themselves frustrated at the hands of a Brentford side who were at pains to play on the periphery and waste time and leech the game of any life.
Up with this a resilient Leeds would not put, and they eventually eked out the all-important goal.
On his home debut for the club, Eddie Nketiah netted a late winner from close-range to decide the match, win popular acclaim from the United supporters and ensure that erstwhile Whites defender Pontus Jansson was sent packing on his return to LS11.
Marcelo Bielsa made one alteration to the side that defeated Wigan Athletic in Leeds’ last match as he selected Ezgjan Alioski in place of the injured Barry Douglas at left-back.
The hosts started the game with a marked tepidity, and it was the visitors, who, initially, appeared to be the more progressive and energetic team.
Sergi Canos, in the sixth minute, produced some dexterous footwork as he approached the box in the hope of fashioning a shot on goal, but Ben White stepped in to clear the danger.
Ollie Watkins then played a delightful flick into Canos’ path, but the Spaniard’s shot was tame and easy for Kiko Casilla to deal with.
The match was scrappy and bitty and the midfield resembled some sort of impetuous maelstrom, frenetically unstable. Both teams endeavoured to establish a passing rhythm but to no avail.
This all suited Brentford more than it did their hosts. A quick break on 24 minutes almost saw them take the lead. Stuart Dallas conceded possession in the opposing half. The Bees burst forward, and Bryan Mbeumo cracked a fierce shot against the inside of the far post.
Thereupon an almost somnolent, slovenly Leeds woke up and whirred into life. Three minutes passed before Alioski and Jack Harrison produced a slick exchange of passes, and the former crossed the ball for Patrick Bamford, who headed it over the crossbar.
Alioski was involved again shortly thereafter, and he hoisted a pinpoint pass into the box. Bamford raced onto it whilst Brentford goalkeeper David Raya raced out of his goal. The United striker reached it first, but could only nod the ball wide of the post. A let-off.
Leeds were immeasurably better in the second half, and they started it in sprightly fashion, winning corners and flighting in crosses and controlling the tempo of the match.
And they should have had a penalty - a just reward for their efforts - in the 64th minute when Mateusz Klich’s shot appeared to strike a Brentford defender’s hand in an unnatural position. Referee Andy Davies waved away the protests and booked Stuart Dallas for his fulmination, much to the unbridled fury of the home crowd.
The hosts were further incensed a moment later when Alioski was thrust to the floor before Brentford broke forward and flashed a shot just wide of the post.
Unperturbed, Leeds continued to exert attacking pressure, crafting some slick passages of play that always seemed to lack incision at the end. One increasingly got the feeling that it was not to be United’s night.
Leeds encountered this kind of difficulty often throughout the course of last season. The difficulty of finding yourself locked in a stalemate with a terribly tough opponent, in terribly tough circumstances, and having nothing up your sleeve to potentially alter the outcome.
How gratifying it was then for the home crowd to see first the introduction of Helder Costa and then that of Eddie Nketiah, who received a rapturous ovation as he prepared to come on to the field.
One could almost hear a sharp, collective intake of breath in the ground, and a shallowness to it, a shortness, as though made in eager anticipation.
In any case, one could definitely hear the crowd just nine minutes from time, when Costa and Nketiah contrived to create the winning goal.
The hosts first saw off a Brentford attack before creating one of their own. Klich released Costa on the right. The Portuguese exploded into a lung-busting run to race away from his marker. He played with the outside of his foot a delectable low cross that went through the legs of Jansson and across the face of goal. Nketiah obliged with a simple finish from close range to spark exultant celebrations among over 30,000 home fans.
United proceeded to negotiate the game’s remainder, which they did with little trouble. There was a scare at the end of four minutes added on when a corner fell only as far as Said Benrahma, but the Frenchman blasted it over and Bielsa and his charges held on for a victory they probably just about merited.
Leeds lacked fluidity and flair in the first half, their poor, perfunctory passing getting them nowhere, and although they improved in this regard in the second, it was ultimately the combination of Costa and Nketiah that decided the match, with their pace proving particularly lethal against a Brentford defence that was by that juncture utterly enervated. Harrison, Bamford and Pablo Hernandez struggled to make an impact and United’s most impressive performances came from White, Alioski, Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips.
Despite the evening having strongly and frequently given the impression that it was going to be an absolute bugger, all was well in the end and this victory takes Leeds back to the summit ahead of their trip to face basement side Stoke City away from home on Saturday,
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Dallas (Berardi 78’), White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Hernandez (Nketiah 77’), Forshaw, Klich, Harrison (Costa 65’); Bamford.
Unused subs: Meslier, Shackleton, McCalmont, Bogusz.
Brentford (3-4-3): Raya; Jeanvier, Jansson, Pinnock (Marcondes 89’); Dalsgaard, Jensen, Norgaard, Henry; Mbeumo (Dasilva 67’), Canos (Benrahma 79’), Watkins.
Unused subs: Daniels, Forss, Racic, Thompson.
Match Statistics (Leeds / Brentford):
Possession: 70% / 30%
Shots: 11 / 5
On target: 4 / 1
Corners: 8 / 4
Fouls: 8 / 13
Referee: Andy Davies.
Booked: Alioski, Dallas (Leeds)l. Norgaard (Brentford).
Man of the match: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds).
Photo: Action Images
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