6th August 2023, EFL Championship.
Check out David's website for updates and details on his many books on Leeds United; David Watkins (davidwatkinslufc.com)
I’m not sure I really need to write anything new for this game! I am sure I could find any number of match summaries from last season that would pretty accurately describe it. Leeds dominate the game, create chances, miss them, and then give away a couple of silly and needless goals. Usually, last season I would complete the story by saying how we’d therefore lost the game. Thankfully, this time, we found an escape route to a point.
No one really knew how good or bad the current Leeds squad was before this game. Most of us had concluded that it needed a few new, experienced, quality additions but just where were we NOW before that happens? (As surely it must!)
Of course, we have no idea how good or bad Cardiff are either but certainly, for twenty-odd minutes it looked like we were pretty good and Cardiff were pretty poor! Ok, there was a familiar feel to the Leeds performance at that stage; loads of possession, and a few half chances, but all of them missed or, on occasions, saved by another goalkeeper having a decent game against us! Sadly, that other familiar aspect, the ability to shoot ourselves in the foot, also seems to have come with us into the new season.
We’d started so well, Willy Gnonto firing just over the angle with a snapshot being the closest of a number of near misses. But then, out of nowhere and with their first real attack of the game. Callum O’Dowda appears free as a bird on the Cardiff left with all the Leeds troops left stranded on the right or left up-field. O’Dowda motors deep into Leeds territory and with all the time in the world he picks out Bowler on the edge of the area. Ethan Ampadu did well to block Bowler’s first shot but then the Cardiff man was quickest to react to the loose ball and he slotted his second effort neatly past Meslier. It all came from Leeds being drawn to the ball though and leaving a free man on the left. How many times must this happen before we sort out how to prevent it?
Back came Leeds and a wonderful curling effort by Cry Summerville deserved a goal but, once again the flying Cardiff keeper got across to push it wide. And then, in the blink of an eye, another sloppy goal was conceded and we were two down. A couple of quick one-twos in our box, a shot from Ramsey that was half blocked causing it to loop towards the back post, and Ugbo slides it in. Leeds had plenty of men around the ball but again, no one taking control. Two attacks from Cardiff and two goals.
As we have seen in the past with largely this group of players, we do at least always keep going and the second half saw relentless pressure from Leeds, helped by the early goal from Liam Cooper; a towering header from a right-wing Summerville corner. In true Leeds United fashion Coops then landed awkwardly on his ankle and that was his game finished! Charlie Cresswell to the rescue as our only remaining fit centre-back; he did a decent job though.
It looked like we had run out of time, but, thanks to the new rules on added time, a full six minutes was allocated and in the last of them, we nicked the all-important equaliser. Minutes earlier Willy Gnonto had slalomed through the box to fire from close range but from a tight angle and somehow the charmed life of the Cardiff goal continued as the ball squirmed over the bar off the keeper. Dan James also reprised his effort up at Hearts last week that was disallowed as he curled a shot toward the right corner only for that pesky Cardiff keeper to dive full length and turn that one away. Summerville then pulled a shot inches wide. But with seconds remaining, a blocked long-range shot from Sinisterra fell kindly for Cry Summerville and he swept the ball into the bottom left corner to set up a memorable celebration in the northeast corner.
Going forward we were pretty useful all game although I thought Luis Sinisterra looked off his game, as he did up at Hearts last week. Elsewhere though. Archie Gray was a revelation alongside the calm influence of Ethan Ampadu while Summerville, James, and Willy Gnonto all looked dangerous. Our pressing issue is that defence, as it has been for far too long oh, and that goal-poacher I mentioned too. With Sam Byram replacing Hjelde at halftime and Charlie Cresswell replacing Coops we actually kept a second-half clean sheet but by that time Cardiff were playing with an eleven-man defence so it may not be a fair comparison. Sam looked good though and will be a useful addition to the squad.
So, Daniel Farke told reporters after the game that it would have been scandalous if we had lost the game. I’ll tell you what would be really scandalous; if we don’t find three or four quality players before September 1st to bolster this young squad of ours. I think we are half decent now but, with a little help, this squad could I believe really give promotion a push. Only three players starting today started against Spurs in our final game last season where we were again shown to be defensively naïve; Pascal Struijk, Liam Cooper, and Luke Ayling. Funny that, the majority of the defence! We need to get some better quality in and we need to cut out the silly mistakes. At the other end we still need a goal scorer. Please, Leeds, let’s get it done.
Leeds United 2 (Cooper 49’, Summerville 90+5)
Cardiff City 2 (Bowler 23’, Ugbo 39’)
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Ayling, Ampadu, Cooper (C), Summerville, James (Poveda 82’), Struijk, Gray (Perkins 90’), Sinisterra, Gnonto (Gelhardt 82’), Hjelde (Byram 45’). Subs not used: Darlow (GK), Cresswell, Shackleton, Gyabi, Bate.
Cardiff: Alnwick (GK), Goutas, McGuinness, Wintle, Ralls (C) (Adams 30’), Ramsey (Rinomhota 78’), O’Dowda, Ugbo (Etete 78’), Bowler, Grant (Meite 65’), NG (Romeo 78’). Subs not used: Luthra (GK), Collins, Simpson, Robinson.
Venue: Elland Road
Attendance: 36,368 (2,026 away)
Referee: Josh Smith
Booked: Ampadu, Summerville (Leeds) Meite (Cardiff)