After missing kick-off last Tuesday, my granddaughter Laura and I were in Leeds just after 9am and parked up. We then headed up to the Merrion Centre for the LUFCTrust AGM and called in the Leeds shop there before it started, as I wanted one of the new dark blue training tops. Well done to the board of the Trust for all the hard work they have done and are doing, especially as they are all volunteer Leeds fans. It was great seeing some of the new memorabilia on show and next weekend sees the last days for any Leeds fan to go and see it. After a quick trip to the German Christmas market for my bratwurst, we headed down for the special buses back to Elland Road as the heavens opened again.
On the way into the Peacock we found one of the helpers collecting for the Children’s heart surgery fund. As I had been given more money than the cost of my books on a couple of occasions recently that had been asked to be given to charity, I made sure that I put £10 into this fund as well as a couple of quid. Having had my daughter Charlotte die from congenital heart disease, this is definitely a worthwhile cause. Thank you to all the fans who bought my new book Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United today including some of our Norwegian fans. Anders, Terje, Edward, Vicky and Dave, your support is greatly appreciated. On the way into the ground we called into the East Stand entrance to drop off a couple of small bits for the toy appeal. With another bumper crowd for the last home game before Christmas, Leeds would have an unchanged team.
The team: Casilla, Ayling, White, Dallas, Berardi, Hernandez, Bamford, Harrison, Klich, Costa and Phillips. Subs: Nketiah for Bamford (77), Alioski for Harrison (81) and Struijk for Berardi (84). The game ended 3-3 with Costa (6) and Bamford (8 & penalty 52) the Leeds scorers. Attendance was 34,552 with 710 Cardiff fans.
What a surprise it was to see Nikki leading the team out with Rita the dog getting recognition of her fantastic support of Leeds United before her recent retirement. That was brilliant to see and my daughter Danielle recognised her barking straight away. After Leeds had started on the attack, we had a great start to the game when we found ourselves two goals up within eight minutes. The first goal came after a breakaway attack when we cleared a Cardiff corner as Harrison came away with the ball. He passed out to Hernandez on the wing who put a great pass across the field for Costa to run onto and put the ball into the net. The second one followed two minutes later after Dallas crossed the ball and Bamford scored to send the Leeds fans wild. Leeds had come close to getting a third goal before Cardiff had a chance. Leeds continued to press and won a free-kick outside the area but Bamford’s shot went over the bar and later Ayling’s shot was deflected and went past the wrong side of the post. Cardiff had three chances in the closing minutes of the half and Hernandez was denied a goal by their keeper. It had been a good first half and at times our one touch passing around the penalty area was fantastic to see as the team were cool, calm and collected.
At the start of the second half, Cardiff came out with more fight and looked more dangerous. Just as I was worried they could get into the game, Leeds had an attack. Bamford was brought down in the penalty area by their keeper and then scored from the penalty, to give us some breathing space with a third goal. After nearly getting a fourth goal, Leeds let Cardiff back into the game when Casilla punched the ball out only for their player to lob the ball back over him into the net. We’d had some passes going astray and then Bielsa made our first sub with Bamford going off for Nketiah. Within five minutes, Leeds were caught out as Cardiff scored a second goal. They had a free kick which caught everyone out as all our players congregated in the middle of the goal to defend it. Cardiff had a player on the touchline at the left hand side of the pitch all on his own so when the ball went straight out to him, it wasn’t expected to go there. He was in acres of space as he sent a cross into the penalty area for their player to head it into the net in the 82nd minute. As Cardiff threatened to get something out of the game they had a player sent off in the 86th minute as he brought Nketiah down on the right wing with a bad foul. I hoped that would limit the threat from Cardiff but unfortunately for us, it didn’t. As we had lost our height with Bamford going off, Bielsa made the decision to bring Struijk on which looked like he wanted to protect the lead and see the game out. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it though, as I think it was a mistake to take Berardi off. Sadly our defence seemed to be at sixes and sevens as two clashed for the same ball and within two minutes they got an equaliser to stun the Leeds support. With nearly the last kick of the game Leeds were unlucky not to get a winner when their keeper made a fantastic save from Nketiah that hit White but went past the wrong side of the post.
That was a sucker punch today having been so far in the lead then letting it slip. The aerial attacks and long throws had put us under pressure and we didn’t cope well with them. With having let in so little goals so far this season, we suddenly let in three in one game. The consensus as we came out of the ground was that Nketiah doesn’t hold the ball up like Bamford does and we lose the ball very easily. It will have been a learning curve today because at times I thought we had become very complacent today. As usual we have to take the rough with the smooth and despite feeling as if we had lost today, the positive is that we got a draw and one point. We are still in second place and in a good position with still a 10 point gap behind us. There is a long way to go and there will be many unexpected scores for all clubs in the Championship still to come. We just need to keep on getting as many points as we can. Keep the faith and I’ll see you at Fulham next week. LUFC – Marching on Together!
Author of the following books:
- Follow Me and Leeds United
- Once a Leeds fan, Always a Leeds fan
- Co-author with Andrew Dalton of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United, Leeds United in the 1980s
- The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
- Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
- Out now: Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United
Website: www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United: Instagram: Heidi Haigh – lufcheidi @followmeandleedsunited