Three points. In the Yorkshire Derby. On the road. Against Sheffield Wednesday.
That was a good Saturday.
The mood going into the match on Saturday afternoon was one of concern. Though panic had been averted when Chris Wood put away a late equalizer against Fulham on Tuesday at Elland Road, the Whites till had only 1 point from three matches to start the season. Sheffield Wednesday had 4, but their home form had been stellar, and for the first time this season, we had our normally-optimistic staff members predicting defeat.
Sheffield Wednesday's home form: WWDDWWWWWL— bet365 (@bet365) August 20, 2016
L is for Leeds United.#LUFC pic.twitter.com/h0q1M2CY46
But in the face of all of that, for the first time this season, Leeds United walked away with three points, a clean sheet, and a smiling Garry Monk. How?
I think the key to the game was Hadi Sacko, my Man of the Match. Sacko ran wild over the sluggish Wednesday midfield all day long, and his pace was too much to deal with, especially for Daniel Pudil, who had a horrendous performance on the Wednesday back line. Sacko’s pace itself caused problems, but it also opened up the rest of the attack, which looked as potent as we’ve seen it all season.
His play on this Marcus Antonsson goal was exemplary of his 90 minutes. Gorgeous.
Marcus Antonsson GOAL v Sheffield Wednesday #GETIN #LUFCpic.twitter.com/1Vvj8nU657— #WALMOT (@WALMOT33) August 20, 2016
Sacko opened up opportunities all over the pitch, but he was able to do so because Leeds United finally had their defensive midfielder back. Liam Bridcutt’s addition to the squad was a gamechanger, allowing the rest of the midfielders to perform their offensive magic. They played well in defense as well yesterday, but Bridcutt made it all possible.
And Liam Cooper stepped up as well in the back line, as Rob Green and company earned their first clean sheet of the season. Cooper, Bartley, Ayling, and Taylor had a few mistakes, and the crossbar came up big again in the 41st minute to keep a Almen Abdi free kick out of the back of the net, but Wednesday was smothered in the box, especially in the second half. They dominated possession, 65% to 35%, but Leeds had the majority of the chances and came out on top where it counts.
That scoreline did come into question after Antonsson’s 63rd minute goal, as Wednesday put together their best efforts of the match in the final fifteen minutes...
84’ STOP WITH THE CHANCES WEDNESDAY I CANT KEEP UP, Fletcher with a chance off a chipped pass, volleys wide— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) August 20, 2016
But immediately after I started to panic on the live-tweets, Chris Wood came through off a cross from substitute Kemar Roofe:
Chris Wood GOAL v Sheffield Wednesday #GETIN #LUFC pic.twitter.com/1joINUpRlU— #WALMOT (@WALMOT33) August 20, 2016
There’s nothing better than going up 0-2 on the road against a “rival.” They’d hold on to win it by that scoreline after Sacko almost scored a third, but they didn’t need the icing on that cake. The team desperately needed a win, both to make Garry Monk’s job more secure and to start climbing up the table, and they delivered on Saturday afternoon.
It also marked the first time in a very, very long time that the post-win credit wasn’t taken by the Leeds United head coach. I loved Steve Evans, but this is the sort of class I get excited about:
Monk leaving the players to take the applause. Disappeared quietly down the tunnel. Good on him. #lufclive— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) August 20, 2016
The feeling after this match was one of great relief more than joy, but there was joy mixed in there too. A result Leeds can build on, goals we can be proud of, a clean sheet, and hopefully, the final nail in the coffin for the “We should sack Monk” crowd, Massimo included. Let’s move on to Luton on Tuesday, add in Jansson, sign Fletcher, and start our climb to promotion. Doesn’t it feel good to dream again? #MOT