FA Carling Premiership
Leeds United 2 - 0 Middlesbrough
(Half-time: 1 - 0)
|« Partizan Belgrade||Newcastle United »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Mills, Radebe, Woodgate, Harte, Hopkin (Kelly 46), Batty, Bowyer, Kewell, Bridges (Huckerby 53), Smith||Haaland, Robinson, Bakke|
|Middlesbrough||Schwarzer, Festa, Vickers, Pallister, Cooper, Ziege, Mustoe, Ince, O'Neill, Deane, Armstrong (Ricard 72)||Fleming, Beresford, Maddison, Gavin|
|Leeds United||Bridges 14, Kewell 64|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Middlesbrough||Pallister, Festa, Ziege, Ince|
|Shots on goal||19||13|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||8, 10||0|
|Nick Allen||vs Middlesboro|
|Kev Lewis||vs Middlesboro|
|The Guardian||Leeds going up in the world|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Leeds keep rising as Kewell ends run|
|The Times||Batty marks beautiful game|
|The Independent||Kewell keeps his cool as Leeds stay on the boil|
|Express Sport||Second gear's not enough as O'Leary seeks Leeds overdrive|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||Super Leeds soar into second spot|
|Carlingnet||Leeds United 2 - 0 Middlesbrough|
We won this without breaking sweat, and despite an outbreak of defenders fannying around with the ball trying to give the opposition a way back into the game, which may go some way to explain our current difficulties in keeping clean sheets. The fact that on several occasions our overelaboration nearly let a team as hopeless as 'boro back into the game speaks volumes - all the back 4 and some of the midfield were equally guilty.
'Boro only had two real chances both long shots, one which Martyn seemed to see late, and did well to scoop out from the base of the post, the other the obligatory long shot from Deano, which as custom dictates flew past the keeper only to come back off the post - he is the unluckiest CForward in the game. Their attack is centred round the long ball up to Deane, and then playing off his flick-ons. He beat Lucas to every ball in the air, and it caused a few problems for a while, untli our boys realised that all they had to do was defend the second ball and the problem was snuffed out.
We started like a set of steam trains murdering them down the wings - especially Harry on the left, and had countless chances. Eventually after 15 minutes we got the goal. Harry flick-on to Smith on the right edge of the box, waist high cross which Bridges meets first time - might have taken a deflection - low and bouncing into the far corner from 10 yards. This should have been the springboard for a rout but it wasn't because: a) we stopped getting wide and attacking down the flanks (the number of times players in possession looked up for someone wide to play it to only to be forced back inside...); b) we got complacent ; c) we awarded Ince the freedom of the park - he was their only player that looked anything like, but we gave him so much time and room.
Our second was sort of inevitable, but we needed it to make the game safe. An awful back pass from the half way dropped between Huckerby and the keeper, both charged for it, the keeper got their first 25 yards out, only to knock it into Harry's path 35 yards out, and he gratefully rolled it first time into an empty net. His first goal of the season I think, and maybe that will do his confidence in front of goal some good.
Gripes? Well our dead ball crossing was woeful - mainly swung high over the box and out of play the other side, or just straight behind for a goal kick. Why does it take three of them over the ball to take a corner or free kick out wide? What do they achieve by tapping the ball between them and then crossing it? Why isn't Hopkin at 6ft+ in the box for these crosses?
Kelly started the second half in place of Hopkin, who was giving no cover to Mills down the wing, hence Ziege (whose name was pronounced Zeej, by the twat with the mike) had a biggish influence on the first half. Kelly stopped that. But then the problem came getting forward - when the ball came out to the right, both Kelly and Mills we often within five yards of each other wanting the ball - duplication. I am increasingly unsure of Mills, he looks to be too unsteady for a defensive player, his positioning is woeful at times, and although he is fast, his tackling is only of the diving in kind. He might settle into it, but I would drop him and play Kelly for a couple of games.
Where was Gazza?
MARTYN -7- not overstretched, but what needed to be done was done well - got a bollocking off Lucas for coming out to clear something that Lucas had under control, and as he slid it back to him it almost went past Nige for an embarrasing moment.
MILLS -6- just don't know about him - early days I suppose.
HARTE -7- consistently both our best and worst crosser of the ball - seemed to fair better against Deane in the air than anyone else did.
WOODGATE -7- Quietly authoratative. brought the ball out of defence nicely a few times.
RADEBE -7- again steady, not at his brilliant best recently as has been noted in these parts (but nobodies going to tell me that either penalty vs Coventry or Sunderland was the correct decision... the one against Belgrade I'll give you)
HOPKIN -4- nonentity going forward. No cover defensively. Rightly substituted.
BATTY -4- amazingly casual and lacklustre - gave the ball away more in this game than in any other I've seen him in.
BOWYER -7- ran his socks off as usual - often makes runs that are not seen by his teammates -hope that this silly talk of a possible transfer to Spurs is just silly talk - although it might suddenly see him in the England squad.
KEWELL -8- MOTM - they gave him too much room, and he ran through them at will - but he is getting greedy.
BRIDGES -7- looked up for it, took his goal well, shame about his injury.
SMITH -6- unspectacular but hardworking performance. Should have scored when the ref played advantage, but slid it wide.
KELLY -7- added good balance, and kept Ziege at bay.
HUCKERBY -5- hopeless. even his teammates didn't want to pass to him.
Crowd - poor and quiet.
Question - Do you have to be tall with long blonde hair that swishes about when you run around on the pitch in your high heels, to get a job as half time assistant to the twat with the mike.
Nick - well we're second and we have really got started yet - what's the betting Newcastle don't get 8 next week?
PS - anyone else worried about what our youngsters find to do to fill those lonely hours when they're injured? Lee Matthews apparently "chews the carpet with frustration"!!
Well in the end it was a comfortable win 2-0 v Boro, but not a great performance.
Leeds controlled the first half, but never really flowed. A deflected shot from Bridges, finished a nice move after 15 mins.
A few other chances, but the forwards still don't look quite up to it.
Kelly came on in the 2nd half for Hopkin, which gave us a bit more on the right, but a bit less in the middle and somehow Ziege ended up with more space. Boro started the 2nd half well, but a poor back pass from Cooper left Huckerby 1 on 1, the keeper got a touch, but it ran to Harry, who slotted home easily from 25yds into an open net. He really needed a goal after never really looking like he'd score from a few half chances. Huckerby had come on for Bridges surprisingly, because Bridges has looked about Leeds best forward in the first few weeks, but he did get a knock in mid-week.
The rest of the game was about even. Boro had more of the ball but did less with it, Ince was their best player and rightfully man of the match. The defence looked solid apart from a couple of times when the played themselves into trouble. The midfield had a strange old game, sometimes looking really slick, and other times not being able to complete the simplest of passes, I'm still not sure we want Harry playing so far forward. He does support the forwards and provide quality and experience, but it limits Bowyer's forward runs, look what he did on Tuesday with more freedom. Also at times the midfield gets overworked. I think I'd prefer it if Harry played more orthodox left side most of the time, and wandered inside and forwards less often as a surprise. However I suppose DOL sees him as Leeds most creative force and wants him playing where he does the most damage.
Boro are a huge side and Leeds got no joy at all at set pieces. However we defended theirs pretty well. Also we coped well with Deane, he won a lot in the air, but Leeds were prepared for that and all the defenders read the flicks and touches well.
Martyn 8 - faultless, but not overworked.
Mills 6 - Not too much wrong, but not brilliant either
Woodgate 7 - Competent performance
Radebe 7 - Some great defending, a couple of slips.
Harte 7 - Confident display, crossing not up to standard, but it was difficult with their height advantage
Hopkin 7 - Decent 1st half.
Batty 8 - In addition to the things we know he does well, he is Leeds best passer of the ball, short and long. Just wish he'd sometimes drive forward and shoot.
Bowyer 6 - A bit subdued
Kewell 7- Some great runs, but seems to freeze when he gets into the box.
Bridges 7 - Leeds best forward at the moment
Smith 6 - Some good things, great spirit.
Kelly 6 - More composed than Mills, perhaps he's due a start at right back.
Huckerby 6 - Some good runs.
David O'Leary's well-practised persona as the naive, novice manager is beginning to wear thin. A comfortable victory over Middlesbrough lifted Leeds into second place, their highest position under the Irishman, and while this season's Premiership title may prove beyond their capabilities, O'Leary had better grow accustomed to his team being ranked among the division's elite.
On the eve of the season, no less an authority than Sir Alex Ferguson cited Leeds as his personal choice as the dark horse most capable of catching Manchester United this season.
The sale of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink soon after may have reduced Leeds' standing in the view of some, but this morning's Premiership table suggests otherwise.
©Guardian Media Group plc
ANOTHER durability test was passed with flying colours as Leeds United climbed to second spot in the Premiership with this victory over a disappointing Middlesbrough.
On a weekend which saw below-par performances from all the sides involved in midweek European action, United dug on all their reserves to collect maximum reward from a fixture which had always seemed likely to present problems.
And in showing all their rivals how even the sternest tests of stamina can be overcome, David O'Leary's super troopers sent a warning shot across their bows.
For if, in the space of eight days, you can emerge the away winners in a seven-goal Premiership bonanza, go into European competition in Holland against the Yugoslav champions and make them look third rate, then return to league action and engineer a comprehensive home win over a side with more victories than defeats to its name, you are doing very well indeed.
That is United at the moment... full of optimism, brimming with confidence and well enough in touch with leaders Manchester United to force them to keep looking anxiously over their shoulders.
Stamina is becoming the keyword in this Leeds campaign. Youthful legs can run for ever and it is in this department that many opposing teams are finding difficulty in coming to terms with.
In fairness, this wasn't pretty.Some victories are achieved in glorious runaway fashion and others, like this one, must be ground out. The incongruity here was that Leeds were so much in command -- embarrassingly so at times - that a much bigger scoreline could and should have been achieved.
Yet so what' You can do no more than win and as David Batty, once again in fabulous form, observed afterwards: "We knew all along that the three points were ours and sometimes in games like that it is difficult to raise your standards. We never felt threatened in any way."
More interestingly, certainly as far as Batty is concerned, United's next opponents are Newcastle at Elland Road on Saturday and the demonic midfielder said: "A fortnight ago that fixture was being looked upon as three points in the bag for us, but look what has happened in the interim."
"They get a new manager and in their first home game under him they win 8-0 and Alan Shearer scores five. Now it doesn't look so easy."
Batty need have no fears on scores of superiority. Up against his teammates from last season he will be able to show how comfortable, even dictatorial, he has become since his return to Elland Road and Newcastle's minds will be full going into the game this week with thoughts of how on earth they are going to stop the Leeds cavalry charge.
Their big win yesterday was achieved only against a Sheffield Wednesday team who are being labelled the Luxembourg of the Premiership and they will find United a vastly different proposition.
For once Leeds put themselves in the driving seat and tidily put into place the cushion of an early goal as, on 15 minutes, Harry Kewell found Alan Smith in space on the right and Smith cut back the ball accurately into the path of Michael Bridges for a crisply-struck 15-yard shot which Gianluca Festa only helped into the net.
Boro were ponderous and pedestrian and offered no threat at all until Deane's 24th minute shot was easily swallowed up by Nigel Martyn.
As the game wore on Paul Ince became a one-man show for them, and how Leeds were grateful for the same lack of commitment from all those around him. Too many went missing and Leeds boss David O'Leary was moved to say afterwards: "It was too easy, really. We were the better team by far and though we were let down by being sloppy at times we were always in control."
"It is always a good feeling when you win a game and we are definitely going in the right direction."
United received a sharp reminder of their responsibilities - further reinforced by a furious Martyn - within five minutes of the restart, when a stinging shot from Brian Deane smashed an upright, but it was all over as a contest in the 64th minute.
A woefully underhit backpass by Colin Cooper gave substitute Darren Huckerby - on for Bridges -- a one-on-one opportunity with Mark Schwarzer, who did just enough to deflect the ball, but only, alas, into the path of Harry Kewell, who was faced with an open goal from 20 yards out.
The Aussie's season has been blighted by off-target shooting but now came his moment of glory as he buried the ball, left-footed, with an absolute surety.
A Keith O'Neill blast was scrambled clear by Martyn and Christian Ziege should have done better than shoot across goal when put through by Ince as Boro briefly rallied.
Long before then, though, it had been game, set and match to Leeds and even though an admirably cautious O'Leary will continue to do so, there is no denying that they are going places. Fast.
LEEDS UNITED threw down a championship challenge to Manchester United yesterday as a stroll-in-the-park victory over Middlesbrough at Elland Road propelled a giant leap into second spot in the Premiership.
And nobody enjoyed the kangaroo-style bound more than Aussie Harry Kewell, whose immense relief was visible when a 64th minute strike brought him his richly-deserved first goal of the season and secured the 2-0 success.
"I thought it would never come," laughed Kewell. "I have been playing well enough but my shooting has been a little wayward to say the least. You have just got to keep hammering away and wait for the tide turn and, thankfully, that has happened."
"I have set myself a target of 15 goals this season and I will be very disappointed if I don't make it. In this side goals are coming from everywhere and I have got to get my share."
Before the match Kewell, who is 21 on Wednesday, had been unenviably highlighted in the Carling Opta ratings as being the Premiership player with, at 13, the most shots off target, yet also with the most dribbles and runs at 74.
Said manager David O'Leary: "We all know what an exciting player he is and if he can add goalscoring to his array of talents he will be in the realms of the fantastic."
Now Kewell has put matters right and cock-a-hoop Leeds players are queueing up to score.
Michael Bridges plundered his fifth goal from a fabulous Alan Smith pass before limping off early in the second half with a groin strain and he said: "You have got to hand it to Smithy. He is all quality. I am looking forward to a long association with him because I feel we can achieve a lot together."
As yet another foreign hitman - Porto striker Jardel - was ludicrously linked with Leeds yesterday, chairman Peter Ridsdale said: "Who needs a striker? We are scoring goals left, right and centre."
It may well be that United's cash-rich transfer fund will be directed at squad-building rather than a one-off big-money buy.
Said O'Leary: "We only had a squad of 17 to take to Coventry. People talk about us going on and becoming a force in English football but to do that we will have to have a bigger and stronger squad."
"All the talk has been about a striker but there are other players I want to bring in as well."
Meanwhile Portuguese midfielder Bruno Ribeiro could be on his way out of Elland Road this week with Wolves leading the chasing pack.
© Yorkshire Evening Post