13th January, 2024, EFL Championship
I thought the game against Birmingham was comfortable, this one at Cardiff was even more so! Cardiff were very, very poor, so poor that they seemed to lack any self-belief or fight and their fans let them know what they thought at the end of both halves. So, how good were Leeds? Honest answer I don’t know! We strolled through the game in total control and should probably have scored six or seven had we had our shooting boots with us, missing a penalty and a few other decent chances. When we are good we are so good that we make any opposition look poor. Incidentally, our goal attempts were almost identical this week to those we posted at Peterborough and our defensive performance was even better in limiting Cardiff to just a single shot on target.
I am fast coming to the conclusion that there is a vast gulf in quality between the top five sides and the rest and the only way any of the top five ought to lose to sides below them is if something goes wrong – as it did for Leicester today having a man sent off against Coventry and as we’ve seen with Leeds when throwing points away at Birmingham, Stoke and Preston for various self-inflicted reasons.
You still have to score the goals though and, for a third straight game Leeds bagged three with no reply. This time we saw some real grit and determination from Leeds in the goals rather than any particular magic. The first came from sterling work from Junior Firpo, who battled his way through three tackles before finding Georginio. He showed his vision again with a first-time pass to Summerville, something we’re growing accustomed to seeing, and then Cree himself had to fight to get away from three more blue-shirted defenders before squaring the ball across. Bamford needed two bites of the cherry – the first ricocheted around hitting a defender and Firpo - but the second time he scooped the ball home. So, a combination of our determination and a meek Bluebirds defence created the first goal. Summerville and Bamford both wasted good efforts before we grabbed a second.
The second, on the half hour , was also reward for the impressive press and tough tackling we put in today. This time it was Kamara rampaging and winning the ball, catching a defender in possession before putting Summerville through in a similar position to the first. He again poked the ball across, past a defender and the keeper at the front post, and Dan James had the simplest task to tap it over the unguarded goal line.
Georginio stung the hands of the keeper just before the break but it had been a thoroughly professional demolition of the home side and those boos rang out from the Welsh fans while there was rapturous applause from the Leeds faithful.
It was more of the same in the second half with Archie Gray turning provider as he bent a clever ball in behind the Cardiff defence for Dan James. His lob dropped on the top of the crossbar. Cardiff did have their one shot on target soon after the break but it was a bit of a pea-roller that Meslier easily gathered. Their shooting was as weak as they were in the challenge. Georginio then ought to have scored when a first time clip over the top by Patrick Bamford set him away but his half-volleyed lob wasn’t high enough to beat the stretching keeper. Leeds were getting through at will though.
It was annoying to see Cree Summerville waste the penalty for the trip on Georginio, we thought that issue was behind us but Leeds did get the third in the dying minutes anyway as we saw another example of the aggressive press that Cardiff had no answer to. This time it was little Dan James steaming into a challenge with two Cardiff players as he chased down a long pass out of defence by that man Georginio again. Dan left both the Cardiff players on their backsides as he raced away. His cross looking for Cree was poor and over hit but Cree didn’t give it up, got it near the byline and pulled it back across the box. Patrick Bamford showed great awareness in allowing the ball to roll past him with a dummy and Georginio’s dancing feet did the rest as he shifted the ball onto his right and fired it into the corner of the net. It was a fitting end to another classy display from Georgi Rutter.
It was an all-round professional display in which everyone played their part including Ilia Gruev who, for a second consecutive game was almost foot-perfect; when everyone is fit Daniel Farke is going to be spoiled for midfielders.
Although Leicester lost today, there were wins for Ipswich, Southampton and West Brom so no ground was really made up on our true targets but we do now have an 11 point gap to the half dozen or more sides battling to fill the final play-off spot. All we can do is continue to show the aggression and finesse we saw today as each game arrives. Add that to the magic that can be provided by Cree and Georginio and surely we can’t go far wrong. Preston next weekend is another we must pick off.
Sky Bet Championship
Cardiff City 0
Leeds United 3 (Bamford 13’, James 31’, Georginio 88’)
Cardiff: Alnwick (GK), Goutas, McGuinness, Wintle, Ralls (C) (Colwill 44’), Etete (Meite 45’), Bowler (Tanner 74’), Grant, Collins, Siopis (Rinomhota 45’), NG. Subs not used: Runarsson (GK), Romeo, Sawyers, Ashford.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Firpo (Byram 84’), Ampadu (C), Kamara (Shackleton 90’), Bamford (Piroe 90’), Summerville (Anthony 90’), Rodon, James (Gnonto 90’), Gray, Rutter, Gruev. Subs not used: Klaesson (GK), Poveda, Gelhardt, Joseph.
Referee: Oliver Langford
Booked: NG (Cardiff) Gruev (Leeds)
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium