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Bamford’s header wins a tight game at Bramall Lane
Sunday, 27th Sep 2020 21:53 by Tim Whelan

It was a game that could have gone either way, but Leeds beat Sheffield United with a Patrick Bamford header two minutes from the end of normal time.

Marcello Bielsa made just the one change to the starting line-up from the side who began the game against Fulham. Tyler Roberts came back in for Rodrigo to act as the creative attacking midfield player in the continued absence of Pablo Hernandez.

There was a lively start to the game, as you would expect from a Yorkshire derby, with both sides working hard to deny each other space, yet both had good chances inside the first 10 minutes. Ayling tested Ramsdale with a strike from well outside the area, but at the other end Lundstram’s shot was only just wide.

Our next opportunity came from a free kick that Phillips sent into the area, but Bamford didn’t quite climb high enough and could only send his header looping over the bar. Either that or the cross was too high to give him a chance. This wasn’t the last time this would happen for Bamford, but eventually he would get it right.

As play continued to switch from end to end the home side had the next chance after Ayling did well to beat two players as be brought the ball out of defence, but gave the ball away with a poor pass. This left him out of position as Osborn broke down the Blades left, and when his cross was touched on by McGoldrick, Meslier made an excellent save to deny Lundstram.

Actually I thought Sheffield would have had a better chance without McGoldrick’s touch, which sent it slightly back towards Lundstram and made him check his stride. If the ball had run straight through Lundstram might have got enough power on the shot to leave Meslier no chance. But let’s take nothing away from the young Frenchman for the save, as he proved he’s not just good for distribution. He just needs to fill out a bit to be a bit stronger coming for crosses.

Bamford sent another header looping over, this time from a Harrison cross, before Dallas forced Ramsdale to palm the ball away. At normal speed I thought the ball must have taken a deflection because of the way it looped up, but Dallas had actually tried a sort of chip shot, though Ramsdale wasn’t far enough off his line to be caught out.

At the other end Cooper had to be alert to block a shot from Burke, before Meslier made another excellent save after Baldock’s turn had wrong-footed the defence. All in all a very even half of football. Tyler Roberts had found it hard to get into the game and he was replaced by Rodrigo. Our record signing had his best Leeds game yet and showed signs of developing an understanding with his colleagues and getting used to the pace of the Premier League.

And the Spaniard was instrumental in the way we began to dominate the possession in the second period, and carve out the better chances. The first of these came when a corner was only cleared as far as Costa, and Ramsdale did well to save his excellent volley. And on the hour Dallas went round the Blades keeper, but Basham cleared off the line. I thought for a happy second that Basham had got his feet mixed up and would let it run in, but the Blades man got it away just in time.

Shortly afterwards Poveda came on for Costa, who hadn’t done that much apart from his fine volley at the start of the half. Poveda was his usual lively self, but I still think he tends to take on too many players all the time rather than passing the ball when that’s a better option. But he did come close with a fierce shot on a Leeds counter-attack, producing another fine save from Ramsdale.

The Blades were still having a few moments of their own, but at the back Koch was another signing who was having his best Leeds game so far. On 74 minutes Chris Wilder went for broke by sending on Ollie McBurnie and Billy Sharp, two strikers who had been on Leeds books at very different stages of their careers. I thought it was sods law that one of them would score against us, but our defence held firm and their chances were restricted in the later stages of the game.

McBurnie just failed to get the connection he needed from a dangerous cross, and a deflected shot from Sharp forced Meslier into a save, but that was their lot. Meslier also took a nasty blow when he dived on at the feet of Baldock, though to fair Baldock had tried to pull out of the challenge before the collision. Had he had to go off then Caprile would have come on between the sticks, as Casilla wasn’t even on the bench.

But Leeds finally managed to get the breakthrough on 88 minutes, as Harrison sent over a cross which found Bamford untroubled by anything resembling marking from the Sheffield United defence. This time the cross wasn’t too high, and if anything it was too low, as it hit Bamford on the nose. But he was still able to guide the ball into the corner of the net to put Leeds in front.

There were still five minutes of injury time to endure, mainly from the time it took to treat Meslier, but Leeds were able to hold on for the win without too much difficulty. Alioski came on for Rodrigo on 91 minutes, but I won’t read as much into this as some on social media, as this was tactical, to shore up the midfield and see the game out.

This was Sheffield United’s third defeat in three and it leaves them rooted to the foot of the table, though they might feel slightly aggrieved to have got nothing from this game. It might be a case of the difficult second season syndrome, but I reckon they will start to pick up points again before too long.

As for us, the win temporarily left us sixth in the table, but with several teams below having games in hand. But there are definite signs that it’s coming together and that the new signings are starting to blend in and get used to the Bielsa way. And next up we have Manchester City and their distinctly leaky defence. Who knows how far we can go this season?

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