Leeds United lost in yet another Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United. While the first half appeared to be much of the same dross as the past month has been, a little life was breathed back into the match in the second half, with Pierre-Michel Lasogga scoring a good headed goal. However, because Leeds can’t have nice things, Sheffield United was awarded a controversial penalty late in the second half to let former Leeds player Billy Sharp score his second goal of the game.
Had a go in the second half after a very poor first but there are some fundamental issues with this team. Those aren't going to disappear overnight.— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 10, 2018
Leeds had some decent pressure following the penalty decision, and had a penalty shout of their own after what appeared to be a handball in the box, but nothing was given and Leeds ended up losing in Paul Heckingbottom’s first match at the club.
Here’s how I rated them.
Felix Wiedwald: Wasn’t really at fault for any of the goals. Dove the correct way on the penalty, but really didn’t have a chance to get to the ball as Sharp did well to take the spot kick. There was nothing he could have done to stop the volley at the beginning of the match as well. Decent performance, couldn’t have asked for more from him, despite the scoreline. 7/10
Stuart Dallas: Didn’t have the greatest start in the world in the match after not marking Sharp in the box after the deflected cross into the box allowed Sharp to get a good volley away, but was hardly the only player ball-watching in that sequence. Made a brilliant tackle in the second half to deny a Sheffield United player a free run in the box. Was good getting forward, as you would expect from a converted winger, but the team misses an actual fullback to play at right back. 6/10
Pontus Jansson: Had a great shot on net late in the first half from a free kick that Jamal Blackman did very well to get his hands on, in what Leeds’ best chance to score that half. Did well enough defensively, although the whole team looked sloppy in the first half on defence. 6/10
Matthew Pennington: Didn’t have a great game defensively either, and was unlucky to get his shot blocked on a corner kick late in the second half as Leeds attempted to draw level. Made a few tackles, but was rather anonymous in the air. 6/10
Laurens De Bock: Got forward well and did well enough at times defensively, but other times didn’t quite look like a player with Champions League experience. Looked better once Roofe went off injured as Pablo Hernandez lost the ball a lot less often than Roofe, allowing De Bock to be able to provide some width when Hernandez cut in to try and create something. 5/10
Adam Forshaw: Was the best midfielder in during the match, as he did well to win the ball and pick out a few passes as well. Seemed to settle down in the second half when Pablo Hernandez came on and was able to take the pressure off of the other players by playing with the ball at his feet. 7/10
Eunan O’Kane: His poor attempt at a clearing header in the second minute resulted in the the ball that allowed Sharp to pick out his time and space to launch the volley that beat Wiedwald. A more committed header from O’Kane would have sent the ball into touch or behind for a corner. And while the penalty decision against him was extremely questionable and light, he still made a poor decision to give the ref a chance to award the penalty. Never really found his footing going forward as well. A match to forget for the Republic of Ireland international. 2/10
Kalvin Phillips: As an anonymous of a performance as you’d ever see from him in this match. He needs time to adjust to playing in a midfield three, as it appeared as if he wasn’t sure if he should advance to join the attack or hold back and help provide midfield cover, so he ended up doing neither. Would have expected better from him. 3/10
Watch old film of Leeds games this season or last season. Watch a game with Roofe on the wing and one with Roofe up top. This isn't rocket science, you can't play him on the wing.— Eric (@EMcLean1982) February 10, 2018
Kemar Roofe: Another poor game from Roofe. Watched the cross go sailing past him with no attempt to stop it in the beginning of the match that led to the opening goal against Leeds. Gave the ball away cheaply and didn’t even have a sniff of goal. The “can Roofe play on the wing” experiment should be over, and he left injured right before half-time. 3/10
Gjanni Alioski: The other winger had an equally poor match as well. Alisoki did draw a few free kicks, and Evans really should have seen red for his tackle, but Alioski really only has himself to blame, as he’s dived so much this season to try and win free kicks and penalties that he’ll never get the benefit of the doubt from a ref the rest of the season. Better than Roofe, who looked clueless, but still not great. Had a ridiculous overhead kick shot attempt that slowly floated towards Blackman, the Sheffield United keeper that had almost no chance to score. 4/10
Pierre-Michel Lasogga: The big German isn’t going to win many headers in the box, but when he does, you’d better watch out. Turned a slightly chipped cross into a superbly headed goal that beat Blackman to his near post that resulted in the only goal for Leeds on the afternoon. Had a shot from about 25 yards out that went just wide as well. One of the few bright spots this afternoon. 7/10
Night & day difference with Pablo on, he’s been the catalyst for everything good in the second half. Ekuban could be key off the bench. #lufc— Tommy (@tommy_lufc) February 10, 2018
Pablo Hernandez: Came on for Roofe just before half-time. Leeds looked like a different team with Hernandez on the pitch. Created the goal almost out of nothing with a great cross to pick out Lasogga, and was unlucky to not score himself on an attempt in the second half. Really wonder why he wasn’t included in the starting lineup, as his dead-ball delivery was greatly missed in the first half and ran the show in the second half. 8/10
Hadi Sacko: Came on for Alioski, and while he provided some pace and width, this touch on the ball let him down again today. Wasn’t on long enough to provide much of a spark, but didn’t really do anything to justify any other time on the pitch next week. 5/10
Caleb Ekuban: Came in late for Kalvin Phillips as Leeds went to two strikers to try and chase the game. Was glad to see him back in a Leeds shirt after spending a second spell out injured this season. He’s got all the pace and power you’d like in a striker, so if Heckingbottom goes 4-4-2 next week, he is in the running to get nod. Again, Sheffield United was closing up shop when he came on, so he didn’t get very many chances. 5/10
While Leeds fans might feel hard done by given the penalty decisions, both for and against the club, this was a fairly dismal way to start the Heckingbottom era. Still a lot of questions that need to be answered if the team hopes to get a positive result from this season. With the playoffs almost certainly out of reach now, the last 15 matches of the season should see some of the youth blooded into the team rather than trotting out the same team and expecting a different result.