I hope everyone managed to have a good Christmas despite the challenging circumstances we all find ourselves under. My grandson Freddie now fits properly into this season’s Leeds kit after he was born nine weeks prematurely. He is pictured with his Leeds football that he got for Christmas with a set of little goals. Simply perfect for someone born to be Leeds. Thank you to Andy Epp for sharing his photo with my new book Leeds Are Going to the Premier League and Martin and Jack Brown who were delighted to receive their book showing the Foreword that they did for it. For all those who found the book amongst their Christmas presents this year, enjoy the read and thank you once again to everyone for your continued support which is greatly appreciated.
I finally managed to share on my website, part of the Marcelo Bielsa documentary recorded by France TV in July which stars me, Heidi Haigh, Adam Pope and Phil Hay. Sadly, due to copyright issues I was not able to share the whole documentary but a big thank you goes to Adam Pope for giving me something to share with everyone. Most of the documentary is in French apart from our pieces. I also recently found another of my cassettes of the Kop/Gelderd End singing from the Derby game on 6th April 1974 when I took my cassette recorder onto the Kop. I thought I must have mistakenly given that to Mick Hewitt when I sold a lot of my things to him after I moved to a new house 15+ years ago so was thrilled to find it. I will post that as soon as I can but listening to it all last night, brought back so many memories as Leeds went on to win the First Division as Champions a few weeks later. I had been so scared to play it in case it snapped but hopefully I have found a way to get a copy of it to share.
Thank you to the Leeds United Supporters Club Johannesburg branch for letting me share their photo of them watching the Burnley game today.
Team: Meslier, Ayling (Captain), Struijk (in for the injured Cooper, abdominal injury), Alioski, Bamford, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Klich, Harrison, Phillips and Dallas. Subs: Hernandez for Rodrigo (59), Shackleton for Klich (66) and Poveda for Raphinha (70). Subs not used: Casilla, Davis, Costa, Roberts, Casey and Jack Jenkins. Referee: Robert Jones. Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors.
Bielsa had only made one change to the team due to Cooper’s injury but looked to have changed our formation as we set off with three centre halves with Phillips in the middle. We started off playing deep and messing about with our passing which ended with a Burnley corner. It was good to see we had a player on each post with reminisces of the Revie years for me. Leeds had a great attack which saw Ayling send a long forward pass that beat the defence. Bamford kept on running and was then brought down by the keeper to give Leeds a penalty. Bamford himself took a great penalty that sent him into double figures for goals scored, that put Leeds into the lead after five minutes.
A brilliant ball from Raphinha to Alioski in the penalty area should have ended better but the shot was poor. Meslier punched the ball out after a free kick was given for a Dallas push. Leeds had another good move with a shot from Rodrigo, but it lacked power and the keeper saved although he seemed to fumble the save. Another attack saw a Raphinha header going over the top, but the flag was up for offside. Burnley were given a free kick and scored from it. Meslier went for the ball and collided with their player and they scored from there despite the efforts of Ayling on the line, but it was then disallowed for a foul on our keeper. The commentators were ranting that it was a good goal but for once the decision went our way, so we were still leading after 19 minutes. Burnley were making it difficult for us to come forwards as we kept passing the ball across the back four when all I wanted was for us to pass forwards to stop putting pressure on ourselves. Bamford won a corner and from a second corner their keeper tipped the ball over the top from Klich’s shot. There was some nice play from Dallas as he shielded the ball to win it back. Klich had a shot that was way over the top of the goal, but it was worth a try as being unpredictable can work in our favour. I found myself kicking every ball desperate for us to not give Burnley anything at all. The referee gave Leeds a free kick after Rodrigo was fouled which earned their man a booking.
Another chance for Leeds was kicked off the line after some excellent play from Raphinha from a Harrison cross. At this moment of the game on 32 minutes, Leeds had 70 percent of the play. It looked like Wood ex-Leeds would score, but Ayling did enough to put him off with Meslier beaten. Some sloppy passing from Leeds was letting Burnley into the game. A Burnley corner saw Harrison and Raphinha on the line again, as Burnley were going mad shouting for another corner, the referee gave a goal kick. For all their shouting the referee got it spot on as the ball had indeed deflected but had come off their own player. Ayling won a free kick after being pushed off the ball by Wood which was another correct decision. Another great move resulted in a shot from Raphinha that was saved by the keeper. The nerves were certainly kicking in for me today as it was so important that we got three points after seeing that Arsenal had moved above us, putting us into 15th place which put me into a really anxious mood. I told myself that we were playing well and would be fine.
Their player Barnes was moaning that he had been fouled but replays showed him pulling Struijk’s shirt and keeping hold of his leg, silly man. Another great move saw Rodrigo recover to put the ball out wide to Harrison and then got on the end of the cross himself but sadly headed the ball wide. A shame really, as that would have been a great goal, but Leeds went into the break 1-0 in the lead thanks to the Bamford penalty.
As we kicked off towards the Kop at the start of the second half, I was willing Leeds on. We straight away started playing about at the back again which caused mistakes and put us under pressure. A good break out from Phillips saw a bad pass forwards that Burnley capitalised on to set up another attack. Some good defending from Phillips with a vital header saw him put the ball out. More good defending from Ayling saw Burnley get penalised for offside thankfully. I thought it was a tight decision but my husband disagreed with me so I reckoned it must be down to the angle of the ball as I sat to the side of the tv screen. Raphinha was unlucky when his shot was blocked as Burnley came away with the ball, but Harrison chased it down. This game looked rife for Hernandez to come on at some point.
Meslier saved a couple of shots in near succession as Burnley had most of the attacking play at the start of the second half. We seemed to be bypassing midfield at this point as I thought we needed to change things as I did not want Burnley to score and get back into the game before we changed it. As it was Hernandez was already on his feet ready to come on in place of Rodrigo. Leeds were still having to do a lot of defending as Phillips got in front of Wood and put the ball out for a corner. We were putting ourselves under pressure with bad passing but the ball was running for Burnley. Playing out from the back is hard now but we need to back each other up. Every time we kick it out long, Burnley win it anyway so there is no happy medium at the moment. Leeds had a great move which really should have ended in a goal with Dallas in so much space, but his final shot was too high. Shackleton then came on for Klich.
Struijk was unlucky when the ball went out for a corner as he was shielding it when the ball rebounded off his leg. Luckily from the corner, Meslier caught the ball at the second attempt but a free kick was given anyway. Raphinha made way for Poveda with 20 minutes left although I thought it would be Harrison going off, as Raphinha was making it hard for Taylor down that side. Suddenly Leeds came forward with a counterattack and a great run from Hernandez saw the keeper put the ball round the post to prevent a second goal. Burnley were not giving up as their shot brought an excellent save from Meslier. Phillips was in the thick of it again putting a header out from another corner as Burnley decided to make a double substitution. It felt like every minute to the final whistle was dragging in what seemed an awfully long game with just over 15 minutes left to play.
A Leeds attack broke down after Dallas should have hit a first time cross but took a second touch of the ball. Struijk was on the floor but if was funny seeing him get up and come away with the ball. Burnley had more possession and chances so far without scoring, but I was hoping that we would come into the game in the last few minutes to get a second goal to seal the victory. Westwood was then booked for Burnley after a foul was given against him. Leeds got forwards once more and were unlucky that the ball was whipped off Leeds toes in the penalty area before Bamford reached Hernandez’s pass. Burnley had another chance that went over the crossbar with Ayling putting him off. Another Leeds attack broke down after an excellent ball from Hernandez to Harrison saw the final ball not reach Bamford.
Burnley were looking dangerous as they won another corner as I was shouting for Leeds to clear it. Meslier punched the ball away then Burnley came back at us when Taylor got past Poveda, but Leeds managed to clear it. Meslier made another good save when he palmed the ball away from a corner. There was some great defending from Struijk, Phillips and Meslier but then the flag went up for offside giving us some respite. Barnes pushed over Hernandez and was then booked for mouthing off about it. Good, as I hate mouthy players and he deserved to go in the book so well-done referee.
With three minutes of injury time put up we faced a final onslaught as Ayling put the ball out for another corner to Burnley. As I was just wondering who the player in blue was, I suddenly realised it was their keeper. I would have loved a counterattack at that time but sadly we didn’t get the opportunity. Phillips tried to stop the ball going out for a corner, but they ended up with a free kick instead with Meslier tipping the resulting free kick over the top. As Alioski came away with the ball the whistle blew for full time. Thank goodness for that and what a relief, as I did not want Burnley to score at all. However tight and desperate it was at times; three points are all that matters. This was one of those very nervous games where I was desperate for the win today which we got, but we also saw some great defending today so well-done lads. Grinding out results are the signs of a good team. The win got us up the table to 11th and ready for our next battle on Tuesday at West Bromwich Albion. LUFC – Marching on Together!