Match Report: Nottingham Forest 2-0 Leeds United - ruthless Reds fell woeful Whites
Saturday, 8th Feb 2020 20:33 by Lucas Monk
In what was arguably their most feeble performance under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United deservedly fell to a 2-0 away defeat to a workmanlike Nottingham Forest side at the City Ground.
Leeds United are now only in the automatic promotion places by virtue of goal difference after succumbing to a humiliating defeat against fellow promotion aspirants Nottingham Forest, who leaped to within one point of Marcelo Bielsa’s charges owing to goals from Sammy Ameobi and Tyler Walker in either half.
United were ponderous and slovenly and struggled to finesse clear-cut opportunities and their phlegmatic and effective opponents were able to win the game with relative ease.
An expectant, near-capacity crowd was in attendance for this momentous match between two sides gunning for promotion to the Premier League, and Forest gave the majority of it plenty of encouragement in the early exchanges.
Kiko Casilla twice saved from Tiago Silva before the hosts appealed for a penalty after Liam Cooper impeded Joe Worrall inside the area.
Leeds struggled to find any kind of form or fluency and it was not until the 27th minute that they mustered a meaningful attempt on goal. Ezgjan Alioski struck a drive toward the net but it took a deflection before bobbling wide of the goal.
And then Forest pounced, two minutes thereafter, when Pablo Hernandez carelessly lost the ball in his own half. Yuri Ribeiro burst forward and, after a swift and slick exchange of passes, Ameobi rifled the ball into the back of the net, with Casilla once again finding himself beaten at his near post.
The visitors looked bedraggled and bereft of confidence. Nothing encapsulated this more than when Casilla, with minutes to go until half-time, claimed a cross before throwing the ball straight to Forest’s Ben Watson, who let Leeds off the hook by misplacing his pass.
Forest’s game plan was simple and yet devastatingly effective: sit deep, soak up the pressure, wait for the opposition to commit an error and then launch a counter attack with the blistering pace of the forward players.
This was in evidence once again just 10 minutes into the second period when Forest broke at speed and found themselves presented with a glorious chance to double their lead. However, Grabban, with a great deal of the goal to aim for, somehow contrived to direct his shot straight at the prostrate Casilla.
In an attempt to inject some vigour into his side’s performance, Marcelo Bielsa introduced Jamie Shackleton and Jean-Kevin Augustin into the fold. The change nearly paid dividends immediately when home goalkeeper Brice Samba had to claw Liam Cooper’s header off the line after several minutes of Leeds pressure.
But United’s next attempt would not arise until the 84th minute, when Jack Harrison drilled a low shot wide from a tight angle.
And instead of making himself the hero, Harrison would inadvertently make the points safe for Forest when, in added time, he relinquished possession to Joe Lolley, who squared the ball for substitute Tyler Walker. Walker rolled the ball into the unguarded net, and, with that, the Leeds capitulation was complete.
This was by a considerable degree United’s most insipid, languid, spineless and thoroughly incompetent performance since Bielsa’s arrival at Elland Road in the summer of 2018. They were unable to perforate the disciplined Forest rearguard, and mustered merely one shot on target, despite enjoying significantly larger quantities of the ball than their opponents.
Forest, by contrast, were able to create numerous opportunities with much less of the ball, using to devastating effect the pace and dynamism of Lolley and Ameobi. Samba Sow and Ben Watson, functioning as a double pivot in front of the defensive line, played so magnificently as to mark Hernandez into silence, with the Spaniard making way for Tyler Roberts after an hour. This was a masterclass in counter attacking football from Sabri Lamouchi’s team and it thoroughly merited all three points.
Leeds have no time to grieve. They travel to Brentford on Tuesday. It will be the biggest match of the season. A win could be the shot in the arm their season desperately needs. A defeat will almost certainly see further questions posed as to the positions of Casilla, Patrick Bamford and, perhaps, Bielsa himself.
Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1): Samba; Cash, Figueiredo, Worrall, Ribeiro; Sow, Watson; Ameobi (Diakhaby 67’), Lolley, Silva (Yates 80’); Grabban (Walker 90’).
Unused subs: Muric, Bong, Dawson, Jenkinson.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski (Shackleton 71’); White; Costa, Hernandez (Roberts 59’), Klich, Harrison; Bamford (Augustin 71’).
Unused subs: Meslier, Struijk, Berardi, Stevens.
Match Statistics (Forest / Leeds):
Possession: 30% / 70%
Shots: 14 / 13
On target: 6 / 1
Corners: 3 / 8
Fouls: 11 / 14
Referee: Oliver Langford
Booked: Cash, Sow, Diakhaby (Forest), Dallas, Alioski, White (Leeds)
Man of the match: Ezgjan Alioski (Leeds)
Photo: Action Images
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