Leeds win again. This is what matters, all that's important coming out of Elland Road today, though there certainly were more talking points after a nervy final ten. A 31st minute red card for England U-21 keeper Jordan Pickford changed the game in Leeds favor, and an own goal in the 46th ended it for good.
The game began with Preston dominating the first 15 minutes, a trend under Steve Evans where Leeds starts appallingly slow. Silvestri kept the team in the game with a handful of great saves before the Whites woke up, and the next 15 evened out, with chances going both directions in a lively first half.
A long ball by the Leeds defense sprung Chris Wood in the 31st, and then the game changed entirely. Wood was able to get enough on the ball to force the charging Preston keeper into an awkward position, and while PNE fans will deny it, he clearly put a hand on it (not a shoulder) outside the box. The referee deliberated and made the correct decision: a straight red for Pickford and a huge advantage for Leeds for the remaining 60 minutes. With Pickford's usual backup Chris Kirkland out with illness, the Lilywhites had to turn to third-string/17-year-old Matt Hudson for the remainder of the game, in a difficult spot to make his Preston North End debut.
30. RED CARD for @pnefc! Wood chases Wootton's ball over the top, Pickford races off his line and blocks him with a hand outside the box.— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 20, 2015
From there, it was all Leeds for 50 minutes or so. The Lilywhites dropped to a 4-4-1, with eight men on defense, and Leeds pushed but couldn't find a goal before the halftime whistle. Making no changes at half, Evans' squad came out and applied pressure from the start of the second, and a Stuart Dallas cross found the head of Alan Browne for the opening goal. Alan Browne, of course, plays for Preston North End, so an own goal gave Leeds the 1-0 lead, but it counts just the same.
The majority of the second half was a frustrating repeat of the second half against Charlton: plenty of amazing chances, little success. Up a man and facing a young keeper, Leeds should've scored a handful of goals. Instead, though Doukara and Antenucci both came on to find that second goal, Leeds couldn't find the back of the net. That led to a nervy finale to the game, as Preston dominated the last ten minutes while down a man.
"How has it come to this?!?" from the radio team. Unreal, as Preston taking corners and chances at will. Silvestri keeps us in it again.— Through It All: LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) December 20, 2015
Five minutes of added time didn't help the nerves/fingernails of the Leeds faithful, but several beautiful saves from Silvestri (our man of the match) maintained the narrow lead and Leeds escaped (what??) with the 1-0 victory and the all-important three points.
Unlike the "draw that felt like a loss" at Charlton last week, this was a "win that felt like a draw." In the table at the end of the season, the three points will be what we remember, but goodness, that was a rough way to earn them. Up by a man and facing the 17 year old, Leeds might rue not increasing their goal differential. Can't wait to hear what Steve Evans says in the postgame.
What'd you think? Happy to have three points? Frustrated they didn't score 5 goals (or any off a Leeds player)? Let us know in the comments and remember, we did win that game, and that's a good thing. #MOT