Becchio takes his tally to double figures

A tweet from one of The Scratching Shed’s Twitter followers summed this one up as a real ‘blood and thunder’ clash between two in-form teams and I really can’t think of a better way to describe it. Both teams started the match with confidence, and both teams set out intent on attacking at Elland Road – one of the few grounds in Britain to defy the elements and not postpone the fixture.

Andy Hughes was the only change for Simon Grayson, replacing the suspended Paul Connolly who served a one match ban for his fifth yellow card this season.

The first chance of the game fell to Jonny Howson who tore away from a Palace defence who were determined to play high up the field. In acres of space, Jonny made no mistake, finishing well and running off to celebrate in front of the South Stand, only to discover the linesman had ruled his effort out for offside. Admittedly, my first reaction was to check the linesman but his flag stayed down and it wasn’t until Howson was celebrating that the linesman seemed to flag. A very late call, but it wasn’t replayed so I’m unsure as to whether it was the right one.

Snoddy, Johnson and Howson all had shots before Palace went close with a header from a set-piece. Snoddy had been the stand-out man for Leeds and was giving the Palace full-back a real nightmare of a shift as he continually ghosted past him to deliver balls into the box. And it was Snodgrass who was the architect of Leeds United’s best first half chance as he cut the ball back across the box, straight to Becchio who missed an absolute sitter before Max Gradel shot wide.

Leeds were dominating, but Palace were always intent on attacking at any opportunity and their resolve paid off as Nathaniel Clyne made Bradley Johnson look like a Sunday League player before crossing low for Neil Danns to give Palace the lead just before the break. The defence looked extremely static and the chance was all too easy for Danns. 0-1

Palace could have been 2-0 up just minutes later too, but Kasper Schmeichel made an excellent save from a Darren Amrbose free-kick. A disappointing end to a first half dominated by Leeds United.

Leeds came out for the second half with purpose, and it was only a series of excellent saves from Palace keeper Speroni that kept the visitors ahead. Becchio, O’Brien, Kilkenny and Sam all forced saves from the visitors keeper, who was looking absolutely unbeatable.

The Whites kept the pressure on however and were finally awarded for their persistance on 81 minutes. A Neil Kilkenny corner was headed about a bit before falling to Luciano Becchio who was handed an easy opportunity to net his tenth goal of the season, and the Argentinian made no mistake.

No sooner had the Leeds United faithful finished celebrating his first, Becchio scored again to give Leeds United the lead with just seven minutes remaining. Ross McCormack was fouled as he looked to break away, but Becchio was alert and picked up on the loose ball to surge forward and net his 11th goal of the season, completing an excellent second half turnaround from Leeds. 2-1

A frantic end to the game followed as Palace tried to restore parity and Leeds tried to kill it off, but neither team managed to add to the scoreline and it was Leeds United who took all three points from a brilliantly contested encounter at Elland Road.

TSS man of the match

Kasper Schmeichel made some excellent saves, not least of which was a strange scrambling one where he seemed to paddle the ball away with his hands. O’Brien, Becchio and Hughes all deserve a mention too, but the stand-out player was clearly Robert Snodgrass who looked threatening and excited the Leeds United fans everytime he touched the ball.

Big shout to the Elland Road groundstaff too who made todays game possible, whilst frozen water brought a halt to the rest of the country.