The 1-1 scoreline only tells a partial story of the Leeds United versus Nottingham Forest match tonight, and the Leeds equaliser is best left unmentioned.
Kemar Roofe’s stooping ‘goal’, with a large dollop of handball, is sure to rile Forest fans and stoke arguments well beyond tonight. It was already simmering on Twitter immediately after the match. That simmering will turn to bubbling tomorrow, finally over-spilling before Monday.
Whilst the scoreline tells only a partial story, the rest of the story can be read by looking a little deeper into the game as a narrative.
Here’s three things that can be read out of the total game itself which, whilst entertaining, was hardly a classic.
1. Nottingham Forest couldn’t beat down a makeshift Leeds United defence
Forest’s attacking four of Joe Lolley, Joao Carvalho, Matty Cash and Lewis Grabban, with all the threat they possess, couldn’t break down a makeshift Leeds United back four that had a right-wing starting at left-back before switching over to right-back after Luke Ayling left the pitch with an injury.
This is an attacking front with the central spearhead consisting of nearly £20milion of talent in terms of Grabban (£6million from Bournemouth) and Carvalho (£13.2million from Benfica). Even with this attacking prowess, Forest only managed three shots, none of those coming from either of the aforementioned duo.
Whilst Forest fans may be aggrieved at the manner of Leeds’ equaliser, they should also be aggrieved at the lack of threat their side posed over the full stretch of the 90 minutes.
2. Leeds United choked Forest out of the game
If you look at the raw basics of possession, Leeds United (70.5%) won that battle convincingly over Nottingham Forest (29.5%). But that statistic, again, only tells half a story if looked at in isolation. That possession allowed Leeds to put together 609 pass attempts, of which 487 (80%) were completed. Compare that to Forest’s 257 attempts at passes, attempts where only 154 (60%) were successful and you get a better measure of Leeds United’s dominance of play.
Pressed back, Forest were forced to fight a desperate rearguard as the home side Whites pressed forward in waves. They were forced to make 38 clearances, 27 of these coming from inside their own area and three inside the 6-yard area. They also had to make 25 blocks as Leeds poured forward, nine of these inside the area.
Arrowing in further and Leeds United’s dominance can be honed more. Adam Forshaw (8.4% possession) had more of the ball than Joe Lolley, Joao Carvalho and Matty Cash (7%). Forshaw also had 77 pass attempts (85% accuracy) against the combined 64 passes of the Forest trio with Carvalho (22 passes/80% accuracy) easily beating his teammates Lolley (12 passes/33% accuracy) and Cash (30 passes/43% accuracy).
3 A battle won in the engine room
Quite simply, Leeds United outmuscled, out-thought and out-fought Nottingham Forest, their constant go-forward spirit forcing the Reds to their knees. It was not a vintage Bielsa Leeds performance, but it was an effective one.
It was a battle where United’s ‘boots on the ground’ mentality saw them dominate the most important part of the field, the midfield engine room. Pitting five Leeds United midfielders, against their five Nottingham Forest counterparts, well you’d think it would be an even battle, what with both teams bang in form. It wasn’t.
That ‘heatmap’, pitting Leeds’ five against Forest’s five gives you more than a measure of the dominance that the Whites had on the day.