The match against Cardiff City was probably the worst performance we’ve seen Leeds United put in this season, and while the Millwall loss was frustrating because of Millwall’s tactics, this match was frustrating because of the collectively poor play of the Leeds players.
TC: "The performance of the team in the second half was a good response, good character. The team played better with 10 than 11." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) September 26, 2017
Leeds never really looked comfortable, and Pontus Jansson being felled early on by Felix Wiedwald’s punched clearance on free kick seemed to set the tone of the match: While Cardiff was going to cause problems, the biggest injuries to Leeds were going to be self-inflicted. Each of the goals in the first half seemed to come from mistakes from Leeds, rather than brilliant play by the opposition. Unfortunately, the script has now been written on how to defeat Leeds by both Millwall and Cardiff City, all you have to do is kick and man-handle the Leeds players. As long as the referee swallows his whistle to “let the boys play,” Leeds players are going to be mercilessly fouled until the other team has a player sent off.
Anyway, the match is one to forget, a single night of piss poor play. As long as these kinds of performances don’t become a trend, Leeds will be fine. Still in automatic promotion places (as of now) going into October and still in the League Cup. While it’s doom and gloom now, let’s not forget that this is only the second loss on the trot for Leeds, and this is still the same team that tore apart Burton Albion and got great wins against Ipswich Town and Birmingham City. Yeah, this hurts worse because it’s Neil Warnock, but hey, these matches will come. Thomas Christiansen’s job is to now go out and win against Sheffield Wednesday this weekend.
On to the ratings.
Felix Wiedwald: Not the best performance by the big German keeper, as Cardiff did their best to get into passing lanes and force turnovers. Forcing Wiedwald to punt the ball up the pitch will always cause trouble for Leeds, since the team isn’t built that way, and this match was no exception. Can’t blame the keeper for any of the goals, especially the first two. 6/10
Luke Ayling: Seemed the best Leeds defender on the night, which isn’t saying much. Had moments going forward that seemed good, but like Berardi, couldn’t make the final connection. Seemed to be one of the few Leeds players to given time and space to dribble out of the back, with Cardiff content to cover the wingers and midfielders. 6/10
Pontus Jansson: Seemed unsure on who to cover on the first Cardiff goal as Junior Hoilett made him look silly before passing to a wide-open Kenneth Zahore. Not the big Swede’s best match in White, but still dealt with aerial attacks well. Along with Pennington, seemed to settle down in the second half and played well, but it was too little, too late. 5/10
Christiansen on Cooper: "His experience in that situation should have stopped him but I don’t want to blame anyone individually." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) September 26, 2017
Liam Cooper: A night to forget for the Leeds captain who got a Scotland call-up before the match. He failed to cover Zahore and might have been guilty of a little ball watching on the first goal, didn’t close down Hoilett before he released his shot on net, although from that angle and range it was always going to take something special to beat the keeper, which Hoilett did produce. Tried too hard to make up for the errors by lunging in on a bad tackle for the first yellow and topped off his terrible, no good, very bad match in first half stoppage time by not getting back fast enough and then shoulder-barging a Cardiff player for his second yellow. 3/10
Gaetano Berardi: Wasn’t spectacular defensively, but did good enough in the second half. Had a chance to put the match on its head with a great run, but as almost everything Leeds did attacking wise, fell flat at the end and missed an opportunity to rip the match wide-open. Not the best performance on the night, but was far from the worst. 5/10
Klich lost the ball, Cardiff played Hoilett in, he skipped into space and left Zohore with a tap-in. Simple stuff. 1-0 on 29 mins. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) September 26, 2017
Mateusz Klich: Made the god-awful turnover that directly caused Cardiff’s first goal. Showed just how much Leeds miss O’Kane in the middle, as Klich didn’t provide the passing or cover that Leeds fans have come to expect from central midfield. Wanted to see more in a Championship match from the summer transfer. 4/10
Kalvin Phillips: Got a yellow card, but was left on an island alone and had no choice but to cut the Cardiff player down to prevent an attack. Got stuck in a few times, but needed a more creative player paired with him to be effective. Was still better than Klich. 5/10
Stuart Dallas: Got the start on the left as Pablo Hernandez shifted into the number 10 spot as Samu Saiz was rested. Didn’t do a whole lot in the first half, and his chances in the second half fell just short, a constant theme for the whole team last night. 5/10
Pablo Hernandez: Looked like he picked up an injury early in the first half and never looked comfortable on the ball at all against Cardiff. Missed a chance for a good connection just outside of the Cardiff box early in the match, and his free kick fell harmlessly miles away from both his teammates and the goal. Was subbed off at halftime for Pennington, and the team looked better going forward with him replaced by air. Jack Robshaw, my colleague here at Throught It All Together and part of the Mighty Whites Podcast, said early on that he thought that Hernandez should not play in away matches this season, and this performance was exactly why Jack thinks this way. 4/10
Gjanni Alioski: Like against Millwall, never really got going and was unable to use his pace and skill on the ball to get the attack going. Had a nice sequence with Ayling that led to the half-chance that Hernardez wasted, but otherwise was taken out of the match by the physical play of Cardiff. 5/10
Kemar Roofe: Was an odd choice to start the match up top, and while he got a goal in the second half, it came from a lay-off by Jay Roy Grot, and not from Roofe taking on defenders in space or from a cross. Didn’t have service, but without a physical presence to take on the Cardiff defenders, was often isolated with no real way of getting involved. 6/10
Matthew Pennington: Came on at half time as Hernandez was sacrificed for a defender. Showed no worse for wear after being out with an injury and made a fine tackle late to deny Cardiff a fourth goal. Was calm and played well. Will likely make the start against Wednesday on the weekend, and showed that the drop-off will not be as great as feared. 6/10
Jay-Roy Grot: Again, the hype machine that the club broke out when he was signed will always make his performances look worse than they actually are. He’s so damn big, people forget that he’s only 19 and learning his craft He came on for Alioski in the 63rd minute and made a nice lay-off for Roofe on the goal, but perhaps should have been given a chance against Cardiff to redeem himself for a poor showing against Premier League Burnley last week. 5/10
Ronaldo Vieira: Should have been in the starting line-up instead of Klich, and played well after coming on for him with a little over 20 minutes to go while Leeds was chasing the game. Won’t be rational about his grade. 6/10