Leeds United took on the Bolton Wanderers today in the University of Bolton Stadium. Bolton has had a tough time lately and came into the match in 23rd place, failed to pay their players on time, and banned one of Bolton News’ lead reporters for a Kermit the Frog meme. No, seriously. Most notably for Leeds, Samu Saiz is currently in Getafe, where he is undergoing a medical, so he did not make an appearance in the starting eleven. It seems inevitable that he will not play in a Leeds jersey again, and Lewis Baker took his spot in the lineup.
So no Samuel Saiz today, or again. A rare player who looks sadly unfulfilled as he leaves. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to stick but I’d expect Bielsa to be philosophical about it. A loss though, no doubt.— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) December 15, 2018
Just three minutes in, Pablo Hernandez had a wonderful chance that came off of a great buildup play from Mateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw. The Whites dominated the pitch for the first ten minutes, but soon afterwards the quality of play began to decline. In the 25th minute, Leeds narrowly avoided disaster when Kalvin Phillips played an awful ball to Forshaw a few yards in front of the 18 yard box. The Wanderers easily intercepted it and would have had a goal, but midfielder Joe Williams made an even worse pass and gave possession back to the Whites.
Five minutes later, Klich had a great look on goal in the box, but his curling shot was just saved by keeper Ben Alnwick. Kemar Roofe almost put in the rebound, but found himself boxed out by a Bolton defender. The last 15 minutes were dreadful and saw almost no action.
The first half was an ugly affair, with the rain pouring down and numerous fouls and giveaways by both sides. Leeds dominated possession, but did not look truly threatening more than once. Bolton did well holding down their backline and occasionally ran a high press with their strikers, which gave Kalvin Phillips and Barry Douglas some problems.
Lewis Baker, who was somewhat ineffective in the first half (most players on the pitch were), was subbed off in favor of Jack Clarke to start the second half. Both sides started off erratically, attacking and counterattacking with speed, before invariably giving away possession without getting off a shot.
The tide turned when Patrick Bamford finally made his return in the 61st minute when he took off Kemar Roofe, who was invisible today. Just minutes later, the 25-year-old finally broke the game open, scoring on a lovely ball from Pablo Hernandez. The attack was largely created by Clarke, who was on the left wing and looked very dynamic throughout the match.
66' GGGGGOOOOAAAALLLLL!!! HE'S BACK!!! PATRICK BAMFORD IS BACK!!!— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 15, 2018
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With the game winding down in the 80th minute, Leeds nearly gave away a penalty when Pontus Jansson lost the ball in the box, and Kalvin Phillips seemingly clipped Craig Noone from behind. However, the referee made a wise decision and did not give the foul, largely because the midfielder embellished it quite a bit. Despite Bolton making a late push to tie the match, the Whites were able to hold on and grab three points.
The most notable stats from this match are Bolton’s possession percentage (30%), number of shots (4), and passing percentage (56%). Leeds looked much more threatening after switching Hernandez to a central role and allowing Clarke to fluidly switch between both wings. Bamford’s addition increased this chemistry even more and really helped open up the game. Though it was ugly and against a struggling team, this win showcased Leeds’ depth and the enormity of Patrick Bamford’s return.