Leeds United made the quick journey to South Yorkshire and Sheffield to take on their Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United at Bramall Lane today, looking to grab all three points and get to the top of the table, while Sheffield United looked to cement their own place in the top six, with a win by the Blades would have saw them go level on points with Middlesbrough.
In the end, a goalkeeping blunder that created the only goal of the game allowed Leeds to leapfrog Norwich City onto top of the league, at least until the end of today’s afternoon fixtures.
The first 20 minutes featured Sheffield United on the front foot, putting Leeds to an early test, as the hosts had the lion’s share of possession, along with a few chances on goal. The chances on goal, however, were largely contained to long shots that had little chance of going in.
Henderson with the best save of the half from Halme, BPF with a very decent one from McGoldrick. Sharp should have scored just before half-time. Sheff Utd's game for 20 minutes, a bit of a nothing-game after that.— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 1, 2018
After the first 20 minutes or so, the match turned rather sour, with lots of shirt-pulling and shin-kicking coming from Sheffield United, with a referee that seemed content to “let them play” instead of actually calling fouls and dishing out cards. And naturally, it quickly started to get out of control, with the Sheffield United players going in late almost constantly and some leg-breaking tackles going unpunished.
Cooper down injured after Jansson halts a Sheffield United attack. Doesn't look too good. 19th minute. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 1, 2018
Leeds was forced into an early change, as captain Liam Cooper went down in obvious pain early on in the match. And so Aapo Halme, the young U21 Finland international, came in for his second game for the senior team for Leeds. Of course, Halme had experience playing in the top tier of the Finnish league with HJK Helsinki, but the experience of a Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane is a far cry from the friendly confines of Elland Road.
Billy Sharp, the former Leeds player and Sheffield United captain, went to work on Halme, but the Leeds defender was up to the task, and the veteran striker didn’t get very many good looks on net.
For Leeds, Alioski continued to be a frustrating presence on the pitch. While he was a willing runner and did well to track back and help out defensively, his touch on the attack was often a tad poor. And to be fair, a few of the bad fouls by the Blades were on Alioski, who’s reputation for diving proceeded him.
The second half featured a much better performance by Leeds, as the introduction of Jack Clarke seemed to improve the flow of the attack, as Clarke grew into the match and Leeds started to gain control of possession.
Another penalty!!! What the hell is the ref playing at??? Are there new rules today, is it ‘grab a Leeds shirt in the box’ day? It’s right in front of the ref....FFS #LUFC— Tony Dorigo (@tonydorigo) December 1, 2018
It’s been discussed to death at this point, but Leeds continued their streak of a lack of penalties, despite a few incidents that easily could have seen a penalty given. The most obvious of them was the shirt-pulling on Jansson that easily could have been called for a penalty and seen a card dished out, but as Tony Dorigo said, it might a “new rules” day.
Leeds did well to continue to try and retain possession and applied some pressure, but it was an errant back-pass and some keeping calamity that saw Leeds take the lead.
John Egan, who probably should have been sent off for his fouling and shirt-pulling in the first half, made a mind-numbingly bad back-pass that Dean Henderson chased down under pressure from Clarke. Henderson made a bad pass out that was quickly intercepted by Clarke, and he squared the ball perfectly for Pablo Hernandez to strike into an empty net. Good play by Clarke to pick out Hernandez when it would have been easy to try and go for goal from a bad angle and get all the glory for yourself.
Sheffield United would come close in the third minute of stoppage time, as a Conor Washington overhead kick rattled off of the crossbar, but Leeds hung on for their first victory at Bramall Lane since 1992.