It was a game that pitted a faltering Leeds United against an already faltered Sunderland; a game that saw 14th play 23rd in a game that could drive a further coffin nail into the Black Cats’ season.
Leeds United elected to promote youth, with youngster Paudie O’Connor starting alongside Pontus Jansson at the centre of defence.
Leeds started out at a quick pace, penning Sunderland back in and around their box, taking the game to a shellshocked visiting side. However, Sunderland settled that early storm, Lyndon Gooch playing a peach of a ball for Ashley Fletcher – the former Barnsley loanee not being to make anything of the chance.
It was a huff-and-puff opening to the game, Leeds trying to get the influential Pablo Hernandez on the ball as often as possible. One such incident of this (7′) saw the Spaniard weave his way into the Sunderland box, his chipped pass to the far post finding nothing but space and the Black Cats cleared.
The intensity of the opening was shown when a Sunderland free-kick (12′) was caught on the full by Bailey Peacock-Farrell. His quick throw released the dangerous Samu Saiz, who was brought down by George Honeyman with a clattering tackle that brought the game’s first yellow card.
Leeds threatened again, with the Spanish connection of Hernandez and Saiz almost worked an opening (15′). Saiz streamed upfield, dinked a pass to Hernandez and his floated dink only just avoided the onrushing Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Gianni Alioski.
Intense pressure by Leeds brought them closest to a goal when, after close control and much probing, a ball into the Sunderland box from Stuart Dallas found Ronaldo Vieira and his thunderblast (18′) rattled the post with venom. Sunderland went straight down the other end and a ball over the top to Gooch was fed back to McNair whose shot was fumbled by Peacock-Farrell and cleared by Pontus Jansson.
It was a game that was a game that was opening up, Leeds pressing at every opportunity. An excellent one-two between Alioski and Hernandez saw the former lift a delicate ball over the top for Hernandez whose on-target shot was deflected for a corner by Lee Camp’s knee. From the corner, a near post flick from Pontus Jansson was just over the angle.
Sunderland almost fashioned themselves an opening (26′) when the impressive Gooch drove for the byline and flicked a ball in to the box – Aiden McGeady stretching and heading straight at Peacock-Farrell who made an easy save.
Sunderland were still showing spirit and fight, forcing a succession of corners that Leeds eventually cleared and the game settled down to an energetic to-and-froing. Both teams went against each other, probing to try and find an opening. It was a phase that was looking scrappy until Sunderland, driven by that man Gooch, broke through with Donald Love forcing a scrambled clearance from Jansson.
A forced corner by Sunderland gave them their closest chance (41′), the delivery from McGeady being met by Ashley Fletcher whose flicked header bounced back off the bar. Fletcher backtracked from that chance, stole the ball from a dithering Leeds midfield and McGeady took a long-range potshot that sailed into the Kop.
Leeds continued to press as the half-time whistle approached, the impressive Stuart Dallas winning a free-kick on the edge of the Sunderland area. Alioski took the free-kick, which was blasted high and wide.
Half-time score: Leeds United 0 – 0 Sunderland