With another lot of recent snow and heavy rain our new pitch will be put to the test again.
Team: Meslier, Cooper, Phillips (making his 200th appearance), Ayling, Alioski, Struijk, Harrison, Dallas, Raphinha, Klich and Bamford. Subs: Shackleton for Phillips (injured 88). Subs not used: Casilla, Joe, Gelhardt (first appearance in the first team squad), Shackleton, Cresswell, Davis, Jenkins, Costa and Huggins. Leeds won the game 2-0 with goals from Harrison (3) and Bamford (52). Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors. Referee: Andre Marriner.
Leeds got off to a great start with a goal after three minutes when a brilliant deflection from Harrison’s shot went over the keeper’s head and into the net. Looking at the colour of some of the players’ boots today, I can’t say I’ve noticed many wearing black boots before as they are normally an array of different colours. It could be they had changed boots to wear the correct studs for the pitch, but there were still a few players slipping on the surface, Klich and Ayling who looked to get hurt plus some Palace players. Another good move saw a Bamford header saved at the foot of the post by their keeper. Palace won a corner which was cleared by Leeds then some good movement from Bamford saw him head a cross wide, then another chance, saw his shot go over the crossbar. A foul on Raphinha just outside the box in a good position saw his free kick go over the top of the goal.
Leeds were taking their time moving forwards with a lot of passing across our back four and not going forwards. Maybe we were taking a more cautious approach in defence today but at times I wanted to move the ball forwards. Playing too deep was inviting Palace forward but maybe that is what Bielsa wanted from us but it was quite frustrating at times. I thought we may give Palace too much hope, especially when Meslier had to be on alert to make a save. Cahill was lucky not to concede a penalty when he dragged Raphinha down and he went down in the box, but the tackle was outside the area. A couple of good moves saw Struijk making his presence known in the box but with one, the final shot went over the bar and another his header went wide. We were getting chances, but we needed them to count. A Raphinha free kick saw Cooper get a header in which was easily caught by their keeper, but he did well to get into a position to challenge the ball.
When Struijk headed the ball under a challenge in their penalty area, the commentator called him a 50p head. I’m assuming it is something to do with swivelling on the ball but I’m sure someone will enlighten me. Just before the break it looked like Palace were through our defence as their player went down looking for a penalty but play was waved on. That could have been very costly. At least we had been in good positions during the first half; all we need is for them to count.
Things got off to a slightly slower start in the second half but enough for Leeds to take a two-goal lead on 52 minutes. A great shot from Raphinha was saved by their keeper but Bamford following up put the rebound into the net to give us that cushion with his 12th goal of the season. Palace started running at us more as they tried to get back into the game with their final shot over the bar from a good position then Meslier saved another shot. A good Leeds move forwards saw Bamford in a great position waiting for the ball, but the cross went behind him. That was a shame as it deserved more. Phillips was hurt and required treatment. Raphinha was having a fantastic game and involved in a lot of moves as well as seeing their keeper make a save at the near post for a corner. Justice was served after a dirty foul on Dallas got them a booking. A fantastic shot from Harrison hit the crossbar and careered off the top at speed, what a shame.
Ayling looked as if he was going on a run forward only to stop and pass the ball back which looked like we were making sure we didn’t leave our defence wide open. When Phillips went down injured again that was to be his last part in the game as Shackleton came on to replace him with three minutes of normal time left. It’s not often we get to that part of the game with no subs made. Not a good end for Phillips with this being his 200th game for the club as Dallas stepped into his role. Meslier was called upon to make a save as the game neared injury time, but I didn’t want Palace to have a lifeline with a goal or hope, in the final minutes of the game. Leeds continued to keep possession passing the ball back and across the back line as our cautious approach suddenly opened up for us to attack. Sadly, although it put Palace under pressure no one was close enough to knock the final ball in. Raphinha won a deserved man of the match and once again he was mine too. The game may not have been a classic, but a win is a win and another three points saw Leeds go up to 10th in the table. After 9,000 Leeds fans last saw Leeds at the Emirates Stadium, it would have been so nice to head there next Sunday this time for a Premier League clash. Sadly, we are still playing behind closed doors so will have to make do with watching it on TV. LUFC – Marching on Together!