Leeds United and Norwich City played at Elland Road with both teams having an eye on the top of the table. Leeds went into the match looking to put six points between them and Norwich, while a good Norwich win would put them on top after Sheffield United nicked in front of them for second place in the table with a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Bramall Lane.
Despite playing well in the first half, Leeds went down 2-0 behind some defensive miscues combined with timely finishing from Norwich. And while both teams scored in the second half, Patrick Bamford’s stoppage time goal for Leeds was only a consolation. On to the next match for both teams then, with Leeds looking to bounce back while level on points with Norwich at the top.
Leeds went down early after the team was punished from a free kick that was given for a rather cheap foul just outside the penalty box. Norwich’s Mario Vrančić had a wonderful shot from the free kick that deflected off of Adam Forshaw and into the back of the net past Kiko Casilla. Very little the keeper could have done about it, as he was at full stretch, and the slight deflection also appeared to change the trajectory of the ball just enough to fool the former Real Madrid keeper.
Leeds went on to dominate the rest of the first half, but were unable to put the ball into the back of the net. There were a couple dodgy decisions, including a rather awful “tackle” by Norwich keeper Tim Krul on Tyler Roberts that only earned him a yellow. Roberts was also rugby tackled a bit later in the box but nothing was given, perhaps the referee thought that Roberts was a pensioner and wouldn’t have gotten to the ball? Either way, Leeds were wasteful in possession and in attempts on goal while Norwich was not.
Leeds were caught out at the back after some rather questionable defending. Adam Forshaw gave up the ball in a dangerous area and Leeds were left flat-footed with plenty of attacking players from Norwich flooding the area. Pontus Jansson was able to block the first shot, but the ball deflected right into the path of Norwich’s Teemu Pukki. Pukki made no mistake an easily slotted the ball home past Casilla, who was prone having already dove to make a save on the earlier shot.
HALF TIME: The sides head into the break with Norwich holding a 2-0 lead, after goals from Vrancic and Pukki— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 2, 2019
So Leeds went into halftime down 2-0, despite looking like the better team and having a bulk of possession. Roberts and Roofe had been putting plenty of shots on goal, but the defending at the back, and the absolute cheapness of the foul that gave up the early free kick, was extremely disappointing.
Bielsa made a pair of substitutions at half-time, with Jack Harrison and Pablo Hernandez both making way for Jack Clarke and Barry Douglas. Douglas slotted in at left-back, moving Gjanni Alioski forward, and Clarke came on to the right wing, replacing Harrison.
However, the changes were not able to kick-start the team, as Leeds still looked unable to get the ball into the back of the net. The Whites still had plenty of possession, but really failed to create anything in the final third.
Patrick Bamford made his return to the first team after being out with injury in the 63rd minute, coming on for Tyler Roberts as Leeds looked to try and get some more attacking options onto the pitch.
78' Goal Norwich. Pukki's ball fall falls to Vrancic, who scores from close range 0-3— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 2, 2019
However, instead of getting a goal, Leeds allowed another goal to Vrančić as he darted into the penalty box and got a shot off that went through the legs of both a defender and Casilla and both looked very, very silly conceding the goal.
Sad to say, been made to look very ordinary in this half. Norwich the better side by a street and Leeds have gone into their shells. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 2, 2019
Instead of turning up the pressure in the second half, as has been the pattern in most of the 2nd halves up to this point in the season, Leeds came out flat and looked unable to get anything going at all.
Patrick Bamford got a goal back in stoppage time from a corner kick, but it was too little, too late for Leeds. If only the goal had been scored with a few more minutes to go, Leeds might have been able to get back into the game, but it was not to be.
The 3-1 scoreline will seem a tad harsh after the first half, but Leeds were absolutely made to look second best as the game wore on. Even the changes at half-time, which had usually provided a spark, didn’t work their previous magic.
Adam Forshaw will get, deservedly, a lot of criticism for his performance today, which begs the question of why Kalvin Phillips was not brought on for him in the second half, but Bielsa can be rather stubborn and after Forshaw had some good performances in central midfield recently, the Argentine was probably letting him play through is poor performance.
Well, despite the loss at home, Leeds are still level on points with Norwich at the top of the table. Norwich have the tie-breaker of a the superior goal difference, so will be top of the league, but Leeds are still in the automatic promotion positions, and that’s all that really matters.