Leeds team vs Huddersfield 20th September 2014
LB Warnock DC Pearce DC Bellusci RB Berardi
CM Bianchi CM Austin
ST Antenucci ST Doukara
Subs S Taylor, Cooper, Byram, Tonge, Adryan, Morison, Sloth
Lance-Corporal Jack Jones used to say in ‘Dad’s Army’ two memorable catchphrases in “Don’t panic, don’t panic!” and “They don’t like it up ‘em!”
Seems Leeds United have adopted that mantra lock, stock and barrel. A more calm, considered and, at times, creative approach had seen them enter this game on the back of a 3 match unbeaten streak with a draw against Birmingham (1-1) being the meat in a win sandwich with Bolton (1-0) and Bournemouth (3-1) providing the bread either side.
Huddersfield Town arrived to face a Leeds United team buoyed by a 3-1 win in their last game and with 3 goals that would grace any footballing stage; not one ounce of scrappiness, flukiness or luckybounciness in them. All three goals were crafted from an essential set of ingredients involving creativity and vision amongst others.
They also came face-to-face with an in-form keeper in Marco Silvestre. Leeds’ fans like Silvestre for the seeming reliability he brings between the timbers. He has made 18 ‘saves’ or stops in his 7 games thus far this season but it is his form over the 3-match ‘BTeam Sandwich’ (Bolton-Birmingham-Bournemouth) that is particularly eye-catching. He is averaging 5 saves per game, 7.50 saves per goal, 2.67 successful catches per game (100% claim rate) and 1.33 successful punched clearances per game (100% success rate).
The Leeds United defence, of late, has been less ‘paper’ and more ‘rock’ in that it has looked a little more secure. After shipping 8 goals in their first 4 games at an average of 2.00 GpG (goals per game), the Leeds defence has conceded only 2 goals in their last 3 fixtures for a return of 0.67 GpG. This could be due to a number of things but the ‘defensive four’ seem more assured and settled and, more importantly perhaps, less prone for calamitous actions. When looking at expected ‘defensive situations’ (interceptions, clearances and blocks’), two players stand out: Stephen Warnock and Giuseppe Bellusci. Stephen Warnock leads all of Leeds’ defensive players in the ‘interception’ category with a return of 3.58 per 90 whilst Giuseppe Bellusci leads the other two categories (‘clearances’ and ‘blocks’) with returns of 11.60 and 1.93 per 90 respectively.
The Leeds United midfield quartet really brought their ‘A’ game in the fixture against Bournemouth and impressive it was. Controlled passing, creative incision through the implementation of passes in the deepest depths of Bournemouth’s defensive third and more chances created than at any point in other games this season. I write in a little more depth about the match-up elsewhere, feel free to read.
But, how was all this reflected with regard to today’s fixture?
After a bright opening from both teams, the game took on the proverbial end-to-end mantle. Leeds shaded the opening exchanges with Mirco Antenucci having a shot blocked and Huddersfield having to rely on the legs of Alex Smithies when a poor backpass meant Casper Sloth was through on goal. Leeds continued to press and fantastic hustling from Mirco Antenucci led to an attempted clearance landing at the feet of Rodolph Austin who lashed it into the net. Leeds were settled and looking comfortable, solid and organised. More neat passing and interplay between Giuseppe Bellusci and Gaetano Berardi down the right flank was pretty typical of Leeds’ growing confidence. Leeds almost doubled the lead on 38 minutes when a ball played beyond the defence landed in the stride of the rapid Antenucci and only a leaden first touch denied him a shooting opportunity. This ‘denial’ was to last a smidgeon over 7 minutes before Huddersfield found themselves going in 2-0 down at the break. Bellusci romped forward and drew Smithies before deftly chipping over him, his shot unfortunately coming back off the crossbar. It landed at the feet of Mirco Antenucci who simply smashed the ball in.
The second half started off pretty quietly with the Huddersfield showing more urgency. One run from Rodolph Austin had him surging into the area only to be denied by a glut of defenders. On 60 minutes, Austin played a neat reverse pass that had Souleymane Doukara through on goal and Alex Smithies had to save with his legs – Doukara being flagged for a marginal offside. The Leeds United passing was much more crisp and decisive than it was at the start of the season; they were in total control at times. On 65 minutes the Leeds fans began chanting “You’re going down, we’re going up.” Leeds were playing with a level of confidence that was, at times, bordering on panache and flair with even Austin pirouetting like CR7 out of an attempted challenge. A mere 4 minutes later, on 69 minutes, the crowd were lifted by another goal; Austin playing Doukara through on goal and this time he finished emphatically. An ecstatic celebration from the big forward, where he removed his shirt, led to a booking. Leeds continued to drive forward and neat interplay between the impressive Austin and Casper Sloth led to Doukara having a curling shot on target that sailed just over the crossbar. The only blemish on the Leeds performance was a 73rd minute dismissal for Leeds’ right back Gaetano Berardi when he slid in on a Huddersfield player and earned a second yellow card. On 89 minutes, Mirco Antenucci set off on another high-octane halfway line sprint towards goal and his shot wsas tipped onto the outside of the post by Alex Smithies. There was still time, on 90 minutes, for yet more showboating from Rodolph ‘RA4’ Austin wo drew a free kick from a defender with a series of stepovers. The game ended with Leeds still pressing for a 4th goal.
So, under Coach-not-to-be Redfearn, Leeds United have been performing so well that the Catholic Church are sending over an emissary from The Vatican City to investigate what is happening down at Elland Road. Whatever is happening, it’s working: 4 games, 3 wins, a draw and 8 goals scored.
Life is good for Leeds fans.
Marco Silvestri simply had one of those days at the office where he was a virtual observer, such was the lack of anything to do All he did all game was make 2 catches with 100% claim success. His distribution accuracy was marginally better than the previous weeks with 43% (4 goal kicks, 2 throws, 4 kicks from back passes) but the distance on his set kicks dropped a little with distances being goal kicks gaining 54metres (down from 63 metres last game); there were no kicks from hand as Silvestri chose to throw out instead.
The Leeds defence had another good game and all the starting four were dependable, especially Gaetano Berardi who was dependable for another red card although this time his tackle took only the legs and not the throat. Stephen Warnock made 5 interceptions of opposition passes, Giuseppe Bellusci 6 interceptions and Jason Pearce 5 interceptions which is above their per 90 metrics for interceptions of 3.77, 3.25 and 2.12 respectively. As a unit, Leeds United’s defence were largely unsuccessful in tackle situations with the defensive four having a tackle success ratio of 0.36, meaning that they were only 36% successful in tackle situations.
The four starting midfield players combined well in this game and were highly effective in the middle of the park. Tommaso Bianchi regained 2 places in the WhoScored passing rankings, based on his Avg P score with his total tonight being 81 attempted passes (91% completion – 76 completed passes) and he now sits in 7th place with 61.4 average passes per game. Bianchi’s contribution stands out more when you consider the following: his long ball accuracy was 75% (6 from 8), he made 1 interception, 2 effective clearances and had a 70% tackle success rate (7 from 10). Rodolph Austin also had a good game and is showing good consistency over recent games; in this game he recorded 2 chances provided for others, a direct assist and a goal. Over the last 4 games, Leeds’ midfield has come into games more and have begun competing more on equal terms with their opponents.
Again, it was Mirco Antenucci who lit up the pitch with a solid and at times spectacular display. He was again tidy with his passing play (24 completions – 80% accuracy overall). He also had 4 shots which is above his per 90 metric of 2.25 shots, (2 on target) and scored one goal where he ran in support of the galloping Giuseppe Bellusci and slammed home the rebound from Bellusci’s deft lob that cannoned back from the crossbar. Souleymayne Doukara was played up-front alongside Mirco Antenucci in his usual ‘striking’ role and finished off the scoring
This 3-0 victory moved Leeds up to 11th place in the Championship table with Redfearn now having a return of 10 points from a possible 12. The promotion dream gathers momentum. However, rumours are that Redfearn’s time as caretaker coach/manager/bloke in charge is at an end with Leeds allegedly on the cusp of signing Sturm Graz’s Slovenian manager Darko Milanič in the not-too-distant future.
Today, it is still good being a Leeds United fan.