Leeds go into the international break on the back of two 4-1 defeats, one at home to a very useful Leicester City side and the other last weekend to a very ‘workmanlike’ Crystal Palace side that took advantage of opportunities that came their way.
So I’m looking back on our first eight games in the Premiership after sixteen years away from it.
We started at Anfield, the home of last season’s Premiership champions. We were champions too, clear winners of the Championship with a squad that had blown the rest of the league out of the water with our glorious brand of Bielsa ball.
As expected Liverpool took the points despite a brave attempt by Leeds on the day. We equalised three times with goals from Harrison who made it 1-1, one of the goals of the first weekend. Patrick Bamford seized on a rare van Dijk mistake to make it 2-2 and even had the audacity to peg them back to 3-3 with a goal from Mat Klich before new signing Rodrigo unfortunately tripped Fabinho to give Mo Salah the chance from the penalty spot to grab the match-ball and give Liverpool the three points. A hard one to take, but it made each and every Leeds fan feel so proud in their team’s performance.
After the heroics at Anfield Marcelo Bielsa gave the supporting ‘cast’ a chance in the Carabao Cup game with Hull City.
Unfortunately they came up short, despite a late Ejanni Alioski equaliser Leeds went out on penalties 9-8.
Last season’s Playoff final winners Fulham were the first team to arrive at Elland Road for a Premiership game since 2004 when they played Charlton Athletic.
Leeds were absolutely superb for around sixty minutes goals from Helder Costa, a penalty by Mat Klich and Bamford and Costa made it 4-1 before Fulham got themselves back into the game with goals from Cordova-Reid and Mitrovic made for an nervous last twenty minutes for the faithful. Another 4-3 classic.
Sheffield United hosted Leeds for the first Premiership ‘derby’ since the naughties. A marvellous performance by Ilan Meslier kept the ‘blunts’ out and two minutes from time Jack Harrison played the ball of the game across their goal for Patrick Bamford to break Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp and his teammates hearts with a headed winner.
Oh how the fans would have celebrated in Bramall Lane if they had been allowed to attend the game.
The next game up was Manchester City at Elland Road. The master meets the pupil, Marcelo v Pep was box office and for twenty so minutes so were City as Leeds seemed mesmerised by their opponents.
The home side then turned the tables on them and rightfully equalised through Spanish international Rodrigo and Ederson denied United the three points with a breathtaking save from the same player.
City, who certainly knew they’ed been in a game of football started talking about ‘Dirty Leeds’ in a more positive way.
Wolves nicked a 1-0 win after the international break with a second half goal from Jiminez. Leeds were very unlucky on the night and in a game they had the lion’s share of the possession and a few chances they came up short against Nuno Espirito Santo’s very impressive team.
Their centre back pairing of new England international Conor Coady and his young partner Max Kilman nullified the United attack to leave Leeds without a goal for the first time in the season.
After coming so close to getting something out of the Wolves game, United still went to unbeaten Aston Villa with confidence, the Midlanders had previously beaten Liverpool 7(seven)-2 at Villa Park. Despite a couple of scares in which Jack(Tom Daley)Grealish was denied first by Luke Ayling’s goal line clearance and a brilliant save by Meslier.
After those worrying moments it became the ‘Hat-Trick Bamford show’, three goals from the left foot of Leeds’ top scorer, the second and third were both candidates for ‘Goal of the Month’ on Match of the Day. Without doubt it was the best performance of the first eight games. A joy to watch.
With confidence brimming to the top United hosted Leicester City on another Monday night in front of the Sky camera’s on a rainy night in Leeds 11.
Games can sometimes turn on a minute, the first minute Patrick Bamford had the chance to add to his trio at Villa, but this time he put the ball into Schmeichel’s arms and from the keeper’s clearance, a slip by Koch left Albert Steptoe(Vardy)a clear run on goal, the striker played in Barnes to easily score. It took literally a minute from the miss to their opening goal.
Tielemans made it two after twenty minutes, Stuart Dallas pulled one back in the early minutes of the second half, Pablo nearly equalised but his effort hit the bar and soon after he was substituted, much to his annoyance.
The impressive City side scored two more to run out 4-1 winners and gave Leeds a lesson on the act of counter attacking , they were well worth the win but the scoreline flattered them.
The last game of the eight was in London, a place where Leeds have registered only one win in twenty odd games. Despite going behind early United ‘scored’ a great equaliser but it was ruled out by VAR, much to the annoyance of the players and fans. Palace made it two through a Eze debut goal before Bamford got a goal back. An unfortunate own goal from Costa made it 3-1 and Ayew finished the game as a contest with a second half fourth goal to make it back-to-back 4-1 defeats.
Ten points from eight games isn’t a bad return considering who we’ve played in them. The slightly worrying statistic is that Leeds have dropped from top six to the bottom six. Saying that Kalvin Phillips, Diego Llorente and Rodrigo have been injured for the last two defeats and it is hoped they are fit after the international break for the games with Arsenal H, Everton A and Chelsea A.
It’s great to be back in the Premier League but with the joys of it brings the pain of VAR, a system that in my opinion isn’t fit for purpose and some rules that are interpreted by different referees/Var technicians or so it seems. Let’s hope the next section of games before Santa comes gives Leeds a little ‘rub of the green’ most teams need at some stage of the season.
It’s still bloody fantastic to be back!
By Keith Ingham