A rare mistake from Sam Byram handed league leaders Cardiff City victory at Elland Road, ending Leeds’ recent good run at home. His error, clipping the ball to a visiting player inside the Leeds penalty area, resulted in the only goal of a match which Leeds scarcely deserved to lose.
If the recent home win over Bristol City was a good result from a poor performance, today was the exact opposite. Warnock’s men outplayed their high flying guests for large parts of the afternoon. Lee Peltier and Michael Brown were particularly undeserving of the reverse, with both performing admirably throughout. Peltier completely nullified the threat of hate-figure Craig Bellamy, continuously outpacing the Welshman, whilst Brown continued his commanding midfield form which earned him many plaudits during last weekend’s overthrowing of Spurs.
Two changes were made to the side which won through in the FA Cup, with on-loan Ross Barkley replacing Paul Green and Paddy Kenny returning between the sticks. That meant places on the substitutes bench for deadline day signings Habib Habibou and the manager’s namesake Stephen Warnock. Steve Morison, who joined Leeds as part of deal which saw the loss of a loved Argentinian, was not fit to experience his first taste of Elland Road action.
Cardiff started brightly, but soon faded as Leeds took control. Early corners came to nothing, though pressure was building on the visiting goal as Luke Varney fired over.
A back pass gave Leeds the first real chance to break the deadlock, but the indirect free-kick routine inside the area saw Ross McCormack’s low shot blocked by the nine-man Cardiff wall.
Whenever the Welsh side did mount an attack, they did so down the right hand side, targeting potential vulnerability in Aidy White. With a newly signed left-back waiting in the wings, it may prove difficult for White to retain his starting place in the coming weeks.
For all Leeds’ possession and pressure, chances were few until shortly after the half hour mark when a guilt edged chance went begging. The ball fell to Ross Barkley inside the six yard box, but his side footed effort was fired straight at the goalkeeper. The miss summed up a rather poor afternoon for Barkley, who by far the least effective of the home contingent. Frequently prone to over-elaboration, the Everton man repeatedly tried to do too much and lost the ball in promising positions.
As the opening half drew to a close, Bellamy saw an effort ruled out by the linesman’s flag, much to the enjoyment of the goading home support.
The second half was a more even encounter to begin with, but the men in white were still edging the balance of play. Paddy Kenny had barely been called upon before Cardiff took the lead against the run of play. Byram’s gaffe under pressure allowed Frazier Campbell to slot the ball into the net barely minutes after his introduction.
Falling behind only served to galvanize Warnock’s men, as the remainder of the match was a procession of assaults upon the visitors’ penalty area.
Habibou was thrown into the action at the expense of El Hadji Diouf, but the new recruit barely touched the ball and did little to affect the match.
As Leeds bravely poured forwards, fortune evaded the brave, as the proverbial ‘lucky break’ failed to materialise. The only whiff of an equaliser came with ten minutes remaining, when the excellent Tom Lees’ point-blank header was well saved inside the six yard box.
A number of penalty appeals came and went, as did an absurdly small three minutes of injury time (considering the insolent extent of Cardiff timewasting during the final quarter of the match).
No boos were to be heard at full time. Leeds were hugely unlucky to lose this match, and merited all of the points.
Many thanks to those who entered my ‘predict the score’ competition of Twitter. There was a lot of optimism in the air before the match, with the winning prediction coming from @RichMay92 who was the sole predictor of an away win. Send your predictions for the next home match to me at @Matt_K_Burton.