bristol city 1-0 leeds united: end to endBack
The first ten minutes of this game looked like a bust for Leeds United, as Bristol City made themselves comfortable on the edge of our eighteen yard box, and life uncomfortable for our defence.
They zipped the ball between their forward players at pace and interesting angles. It was a while before Pontus Jansson left one of their players in a heap, but he was a reassuring presence all the same, as United began the game on the back foot and had to forget all about enterprise.
This was about survival, and being used to this, I settled in with minimal expectations; just don’t pull another Brighton out of the bag. That’s all I asked.
I’d forgotten, though, the last couple of games, when Leeds United have been good. Against Ipswich Town, United were very good, and there was no reason for all the goodness to evaporate so soon. And it didn’t; after surviving the first ten minutes, Leeds took the game to Bristol, and now the games was flipped.
It was Bristol’s eighteen yard line that was being defended stoughtly, while it was Leeds United’s forwards that zipped the ball with angles and pace. Hadi Sacko and Stuart Dallas found spaces out wide, while Pablo Hernandez floated behind Chris Wood, turning the ball around corners for whoever was most advanced and most able to cause heart attacks in the Bristol defence.
Leeds were good at that for about ten minutes of their own, and then Bristol City were ascendent again for a while, and then I cottoned on to what was happening: this was a really good game of football, and Leeds United were involved. This, as well as winning four games in a row? Truly, we are blessed to live in these times.
These two teams really did produce almost a half of very enjoyable football, not something it’s easy to say about a Leeds United match, often because of the tension involved as because we’re normally pretty bad. It lasted until just before half-time, when petty scraps and bookings broke out, slowing the game down and, somehow, injuring Pontus Jansson’s hamstring. Pleasure gave way to concern; joy gave way to the second half.
I mean, there might have been perfectly good football played in the second half as well, but I couldn’t enjoy it. After fifteen minutes of it, Pablo Hernandez deflated in the centre circle like a broken accordian and Bristol broke. Without Jansson on hand to break bones and faces, it was easy for Lee Tomlin to give the ball to Marlon Pack and for Bristol to take the lead.
That was it as far as fun was concerned. Leeds went straight on the attack, and to their credit, stayed there for most of the rest of the game, but they couldn’t find the snap that would make their play click. Good buildups would come to nothing when passes went astray; individual moments would fail when they linked up with individual failures. United had plenty of the ball, and used it well, but mistakes were never far away, and Bristol could pretty much let Leeds’ players defend against themselves.
Hadi Sacko had a great game and an awful game, all at once. He didn’t give the players on Bristol’s left a moment’s peace, but he didn’t give Chris Wood a moment’s release, either; a final ball that was endearing wayward when the game against Ipswich was being won became enragingly wasteful the longer Leeds went without equalising. Sacko didn’t play any differently than against Ipswich, and that’s what might ultimately be the problem, because as good as he was, he didn’t produce anything on Saturday, either.
That’s a good metaphor for this whole performance. Leeds United have played well in two consecutive matches; they’ve won one 1-0, and lost one 1-0. Both were to mid-table sides, and that’s where United are now; mid-table. It’s more entertaining, which is a start; Leeds are playing a lot of football in the opposition’s final third these days, and bringing oohs and aahs from fans who are used to making low, growling noises of displeasure.
This looks, Bridcutt apart, like our best team, though. And how we get our best team to a point where it’s entertaining but also beats mid-table sides, and no longer is one itself, is the next challenge.