FA Carling Premiership
Leeds United 0 - 1 Chelsea
(Half-time: 0 - 0)
|« Leicester City||Galatasaray »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Woodgate, Radebe, Harte, Bowyer, Bakke, McPhail, Wilcox (Huckerby 74), Smith, Kewell||Robinson, Mills, Jones, Haaland|
|Chelsea||de Goey, Ferrer, Leboeuf, Thome, Babayaro, Morris, Di Matteo, Wise, Harley (Lambourde 88), Weah, Sutton||Hogh, Dalla Bona, Zola, Cudicini|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Leeds United||Smith 85, Bowyer 85|
|Chelsea||Morris 37, Sutton 90|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||0||?|
|Jabba||You get what you give|
|Nick Allen||vs Chelsea|
|The Observer||What a turkey this was|
|The Guardian||Leeds plod in search of the plot|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Well-tuned Harley leaves Leeds gasping for breath|
|The Times||Title rivals forced to wave white flag|
|The Sunday Times||Harley's streets ahead|
|Express Sport||Leeds wagon hits the wall on Harley Street|
|The Independent||Leeds fall to very English coup|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||Warning signs there for United|
|BBC||Leeds give up title chase|
|Soccernet||Leeds in spin after Harley clincher|
|Carlingnet||Leeds United 0 - 1 Chelsea|
And today we gave nothing. Faced with what amounted to Chelsea's second team with key players withdrawn to save them for the Champions League quarter-final next week, DOL fielded the strongest side injuries would allow. What we saw today was conclusive proof that you need 16 very good players to challenge in Europe and at home and we've only got 10.
The game was completely forgettable (here I am on Sunday, struggling to say much about it) and was characterised by an almost total lack of chances and - for Leeds - failure to take the few that did materialise. Jeff Winter reffed it fairly, and was helped by the absence of much real bite (apart from a brief handbags session where Smith clashed with Leboeuf, Sutton tried to strangle McPhail and somehow the ref decided that Bowyer needed to be booked as a result. Other than that, he kept his whistle in check where possible since the two sets of players were managing to interrupt the flow of play without any assistance with poor passes and very little off-the-ball movement.
A well-placed chip through by Chris Sutton should have let Jon Harley in for no more than a corner - but Gary Kelly slipped in the area, Harley got clear and left Nige with no chance. Harry Kewell was effective in fits and starts, Eirik Bakke covered a lot of ground defensively, and McPhail and Bowyer were almost completely anonymous - apart from 10 minutes from the end when Bowyer showed up unmarked on the far post and stooped to head the ball high and wide when he had enough time to shape for a shot.
This is the first time that DOL's team has lost 3 in a row, and the toothless performance up front cannot be repeated on Thursday, otherwise the 2nd leg will be superfluous. Considering there were 40000 people in the ground there was precious little atmosphere and the team did little to spark any response from the crowd. Alan Smith has not managed the same explosive impact this season that he showed last year, and Darren Huckerby has not really gelled with the team. Having said that, his appearance did provoke a reaction from the crowd - of disbelief that it was Jason Wilcox going off since Wilcox had been one of the more creative players throughout the game.
The real worry is that we can now feel the hot breath of the chasing pack on our necks - and we could find ourselves in third place by the time we kick off against Villa next Sunday. Against the other teams in the top 5, we've played 7 games and lost 6 - the solitary victory being the win against the run of the game at Stamford Bridge in December. It's clinical finishing against teams outside of the elite that have got us where we are, and the team must shake itself up for one final charge at the last 7 league games to ensure a Champions League place next season. After all, we don't want another year of Sunday football, do we?
Acquired(!) 2 complementary tickets for the game - up in the West Stand - right at the far and couldn't see the scoreboard, or most of the penalty area at the Kop end - it was free and I still didn't get value for money. Two teams playing so far below their potential that the only fair result was 0-0.
There was so much wrong with this game that it was untrue. Neither team passed to their own teammates with any regularity, the running off the ball was non-existant, the tackling was either half hearted or violent in equal measure, positional play for marking awful - in short it was a shambles. Those of you who saw MOTD saw ALL the decent bits with the exception of one fizzing volley which went just wide from Bowyer, just before his diving header which was a glaring miss, following Harry's only bit of decent play all afternoon.
Woodgate and Harte were shockingly inept all afternoon - anyone really expect that freekick at the end to go anywhere other than into the South Stand? - their distribution was hopeless. Kelly was partially at fault for the goal, but other than that I thought he had a decent game espcially his tackling and interceptions at the back. Lucas and Martyn were the only other two players who could hold their heads up at the end of this one. I go back again to the dropping of Alfi - he's not my favourite player, and he can be dodgy, but he did well in a defence that barely conceeded a goal in 5 games - so why change it?
For the last 25 minutes of the 1st half, we were in charge and the midfield of Bakke and McPhail looked good. Some half chances were created - although we never really forced a good save from the keeper. But they completely disappeared in the 2nd. Huckerby on for Wilcox - well DOL could have taken anybody off at that time - Wilcox had done nothing, Smith was out of his depth, Harry was tossing it off in a beauty parlour - mind you Forrest didn't spring any surprises when he did come on.
Its hard to say why the boys were so bad - tiredness finally creeping in? - but we had no imagination and caused Chelsea no real problems.
In all it was very disappointing cos Chelsea were there to be beaten, and beaten well. Firing on all cylinders at the start of the season we'd have put 5 past this team Thome and Lebouef - a joke CHalf pairing, and yet they could have played in slippers on saturday and not done any worse.
Their goal - Kelly appeared to think he was throwing to Bakke - he dropped it short, but Bakke didn't come to meet it, Harley nipped in to intercept, Bowyer was supposed to be marking him - didn't move with him - ball went to Sutton (who is officially the biggest waste of money in the league, and who should have been off for grabbing McPhail by the throat in that fracas) unmarked, lobbed it into the box for Harley but Kelly was in front of him and seemed to have it under control, he slipped leaving Harley in on goal. It was the result of lazy/complacent/ or tired defending.
MARTYN - not much at fault for the goal - couple of decent saves -
KELLY - one of his better all round performances
HARTE - lucky that Mills isn't a left back
RADEBE - turned once or twice by Weah, but other than that a solid game (couldn't believe some guy behind me - when Lucas made another one of those lifesaving sliding interceptions that also became a first time 30 yard ball out of defence, that went just over one of our forwards' head - this guy started slagging Lucas off for bad distribution???)
WOODGATE - wouldn't make into Armley's firstXI.
BOWYER - uncomfortable and wasted out on the right again - missed a sitter to equalise again - I mean how much time did he have?
BAKKE - (in his bowling shoes - The Jam circa 1978) OK for 25 mins. Not OK for the rest.
McPHAIL - as above (in normal boots)
WILCOX - first time I noticed that he was on was when they held up his number to come off.
SMITH - completely ineffectual.
KEWELL - just could not be arsed today.
subs - Huckerby not really there, bless 'im
This game needed Alfi for Woodgate, Jones for (any of the midfield), and a replacement for Bridges. Non of that happened and we lost to a poor Chelsea side.
PS - I've been banging on about the Stewards and their instructions to sit down, all season - it really is begining to get beyond a joke. List fax to Ridsdale "the man of the fans" anyone?
In honour of the home side's impending visit to Istanbul, Leeds and Chelsea served up a real turkey. This abysmal exercise in non-aggression was supposed to be a contest between second and fifth in what some have described as the best league in the world, but you would never have guessed.
David O'Leary passed up the opportunity to go to scout Galatasaray yesterday in order to stay concentrated on Leeds's Premiership campaign, because his priority this season is to make sure of a Champions League place. Again, you would never have guessed. You can tell you are not at the home of excitement and thrills when the fourth official signals four minutes of added time and an audible groan goes around the ground. Turkish observers must have been distinctly unimpressed, both by Leeds and the much-hyped English game.
© Guardian Media Group plc
As the news that Manchester United had walloped West Ham was relayed to a fast-emptying stadium, few of those in white favours could even be bothered to shrug a resigned shoulder in mock disgust.
For Leeds the Premiership title did not slip agonisingly from their fingers on Saturday. It went west - 35 miles west to be precise - several weeks ago with the realisation that, whereas cup competitions are usually won by good teams, championships are now invariably won by good squads.
The Leeds manager David O'Leary has more than £20m to strengthen a fine and worthy first-team panel. He has had the money for some time and it remains unspent not because he is unnecessarily frugal but because those players who might make the difference are only rarely for sale.
© Guardian Media Group plc