Leeds United line-up
Silvestri (GK); Defence: C. Taylor (LB), Bamba (DC), Cooper (DC), Wootton (RB); Midfield: Cook (DM), Murphy (DM), Sharp (LM), Austin (CM), Byram (RM): Attack: Morison; Substitutes: S. Taylor, Berardi, Bianchi, Mowatt, Sloth, Antenucci, Çani
It had to come to an end, Leeds’ unbeaten January 4-game streak ended in their first game in February against a hard-working Brentford side pushing for consecutive promotions. Leeds haven’t won 3 games on the trot since 2013, but there were times that it looked like they could have made it three on the bounce today. It all boiled down the fact that Leeds weren’t particularly effective, the intensity wasn’t there like it had been in the games against Bournemouth and Huddersfield, both games that ended in victories. Saying that shouldn’t take anything away from Brentford who attacked hard throughout the game and whose rapid counterattacks often found Leeds scrambling back in cover defence.
Leeds more than held their own in the first half battle with Brentford in what was a thrust, flurry, riposte type of display from both sides. However, saying that, it was more of a ‘hanging onto the coat-tails effort’ from Leeds who weren’t overly effective in the Brentford half of the field. If you glance at the above ‘heatmap’ then you can see that Leeds were only effective (the green areas showing increased activity) in the left side of Brentford’s midfield and in a patch down the right flank. The Brentford penalty area shows little activity (either grey or blue). In contrast, Brentford were active across the entire width of their midfield area and also were effective pushing down the right side of Leeds’ midfield zone. Brentford’s dominance of touches of the ball, having 30.90% more touches than Leeds (301 to 230) is testament to the better use of possession when they had it. The activity was also due to Brentford’s dominance of passing in the opening half with Brentford having 36.70% more passes (231 passes) than Leeds (169 passes).
Brentford were the first to show intent and threat when the lively Alex Pritchard shot high and wide in the 5th minute. Leeds slowly came into the game and the hard-working, oft-maligned Steve Morison’s 9th minute header towards goal was saved by a diving David Button. Immediately afterwards, Stuart Dallas unleashed a shot at the Leeds goal but failed to find the target. Leeds United had their impressive goalkeeper, Marco Silvestri, to thank on two occasions as Brentford continued to press Leeds; Silvestri saved from Andre Gray and Alex Pritchard in the 18th and 25th minutes respectively. Brentford didn’t have it all their own way and Sol Bamba had a shot at goal blocked in the 33rd minute as Leeds sought to gain a foothold in the game. Breaking immediately upfield, the livewire midfielder, Jota, forced another save from Marco Silvestri after fashioning himself a shooting opportunity. Marco Silvestri is proving to be Leeds’ shining light at times and has kept them in games due to his shot-stopping ability; he currently has saved around 79% of all shots on target from opponents. The last meaningful action of the half came in the last minute when a Brentford corner was met by the head of ex-Leeds midfielder Jonathan Douglas but drifted wide to the left.
Over the full 90 minutes Leeds did improve on their on-field activity but the ‘heatmap’ does show that whilst Leeds were active in their own half and in the Brentford midfield third, they [Leeds] were largely ineffective in and around the Brentford 18-yard box. One area of consistent activity (evidenced by the swathe of green) was down the right flank, courtesy of Sam Byram’s surging runs. This was in total contrast to the left flank where there was next to no consistent activity. The numbers show that Leeds were simply outfought as Brentford took 28.90% more touches (593) than Leeds (460) and attempted 35.90% more passes (420) than Leeds (309) over the course of the game.
Brentford started the second half as they’d finished the first, probing around the edges of the Leeds United box, a Pritchard free kick forcing a corner on 46 minutes. Two minutes later, on 48 minutes, Rodolph Austin burst into the Brentford penalty area going down under a challenge when it would have been easier to stay on his feet. The game then descended into a tug-o-war where neither team was gaining the upper hand despite their endeavours. Still Leeds continued to press and on the hour mark Luke Murphy played in Sam Byram with a measured ball that Brentford scrambled behind for a corner. Brentford were content to hit Leeds with quick counterattacks and it was one of these that brought the opening goal. Brentford’s Diagouraga brought the ball under control and crossed it into the area to find an unmarked Alex Pritchard who knocked it into the goal at the far post.
Rather than sit on the one goal lead, Brentford actually pressed further and were playing with, at times, what appeared to be three up front. Leeds attempted to introduce more of a goal threat up front on 73 minutes, taking off Steve Morison and bringing on leading scorer Mirco Antenucci in his place. Opportunities were few and far between for Leeds at this stage of the game but did have a chance on 79 minutes when the hard-running Rodolph Austin fed Antenucci who played the ball on to Billy Sharp, his shot being just wide of the upright. In the 85th minute, Leeds fans got their first sight of new signing Edgar Çani in a Leeds kit when he replaced Luke Murphy. The game was already drifting away from Leeds when, in added time, they had six attempts at goal which were more like the flapping actions of a dying fish than the product of an afternoon’s consistent endeavour. In short, not a great game by any stretch of the imagination but one that Brentford thoroughly deserved the three points for.
Player focus – Sol Bamba
Sol Bamba scored his second consecutive Man-of-the-Match performance on the WhoScored website. Following on from his impressive debut last week, Bamba showed the consistency that Leeds fans have been craving all season long from a central defender. He was 100% successful in tackle situations (2 from 2), read the opposition’s intentions well by making 7 interceptions of Brentford passes and he also made 3 blocks in total – blocking 2 shots and 1 cross.
Next game: Reading FC vs Leeds United – Tuesday 10th February 2015