Leeds United 1 (Nketiah 81)
Having criticised our performance on Saturday it was good to see us get back to our dominant best last night. Brentford are no mugs and we struggled to find the key to unlock them but the arrival of Costa and Nketiah did the trick. Marcelo Bielsa has plenty to think about as he contemplates his side for the trip to lowly Stoke on Saturday.
I was critical of the Leeds performance at Wigan on Saturday; I just felt it was a tad sluggish and uninventive. To be fair I should have factored in the fact that Brentford are a far more organised and efficient team than Wigan and although Leeds dominated for long spells Brentford didn’t get undone very often in the first half and we should not forget that during the first half hour the Bees struck our post and Canos had another decent shot saved too. Leeds best efforts all fell to Patrick Bamford; three headers that you could argue he ought have done better with, all very different but all good chances.
Whatever Marcelo Bielsa said at half time worked wonders as the team immediately looked more fluent and purposeful. I still felt Pablo Hernandez was not at his best but our attacks looked far more ‘Bielsaball’ and much less ‘predictaball’. We do rely on Pablo for the inspirational, risk taking pass, and, just like on Saturday, they were few and far between. He still managed the odd nut-meg though and one set up Adam Forshaw early in the half but, clear as it is that Forshaw has a more attacking role this season, it’s also clear that he’s going to need time to adjust and to find his shooting boots!
But Leeds were flying now and having had two corners in the first minute after the break they followed up with three more in quick succession ten minutes later. The fans sensed the breakthrough was coming and the atmosphere was rocking but Leeds only score from a corner once in a blue moon and we’d seen one at Wigan so that was unlikely! The best we managed was a long range shot from Pablo that soared into the Kop after the Bees’ keeper (see what I did there?) punched a corner away.
With the game still at 0 – 0 there was always the chance Brentford could still nick it and one rare foray forward did see Ollie Watkins blast wide but the action was mainly in front of the Kop. Alioski looked an improvement on Barry Douglas despite the usual annoying traits the little fella still possesses but overall the prospect of a goalless draw was looming. If anything I got the impression that Alioski and Harrison were trying to use the same piece of turf and so the combination, whilst more dynamic than Harrison and Douglas still didn’t quite work smoothly. In the 65th minute, enter Helder Costa, an altogether different prospect for the visitors to deal with. Ten minutes later and Bielsa made his second change as Eddie Nketiah joined the fray wearing that number ‘14’ made so famous by one of his Arsenal predecessors, Thierry Henry. The combination of Costa and Nketiah undid Salford the previous week of course and both are lightening quick. Nketiah replaced Hernandez and so we’d swapped guile for sheer pace. Berardi also replaced a limping Stuart Dallas at the same time. It took Costa and Nketiah just 4 minutes to find the key to unlock the Bees’ defence.
It followed a little spell of scrappy football as both sides gave up possession but eventually Berardi won the ball on the right, Phillips moved the ball to Klich and Klich slid the ball inside the full back as Costa raced round him. A couple of touches and then Costa stabbed the ball across with the outside of his left boot and speedy Eddie had pulled away clear at the back post to tap into the empty net. It was a carbon copy of that Salford goal and one we saw countless times from Thierry Henry in his time!
So, for the first time this season we improved on a score from last season - the Brentford game ended 1 – 1 here last October – and that is a sign of genuine improvement. If we can do that all season we will be promoted! Now we need to do the same and come away from Stoke on Saturday with at least a point, a ground where we unfathomably contrived to lose last season when Stoke were on a terrible run… just as they are now. If we can start to comfortably beat poor sides as well as win through against the best then this season will be a breeze!
Leeds United Brentford
Possession 70% 30%
Shots 11 5
On Target 4 1
Corners 8 4
Fouls Committed 8 13