Leeds United 2, Everton 0
A mixed pre-season programme, having consisted previously of draws against humble local opposition and narrow defeats against pedigree Bundesliga outfits, came to an encouraging climax for Leeds United with a well-deserved victory over Everton at Elland Road.
The Toffees, it’s true, fielded a side that owed more to youth than experience; still there was enough Premier League know-how in the Blue ranks to provide a stern test for a Leeds team some tipsters reckon will struggle to avoid the drop this season. Surely that, at least, is unthinkable on the evidence of this spirited display by the home side, dominating their nominally higher-class opponents.
The signing of Chris Wood from Leicester, reportedly for a fee that could reach £3m with add-ons, can be taken as a sign of the naked ambition in the air at Elland Road. Now that Leeds have got Wood, they can be expected to show far more penetration up front, with the striker able both to hold it up well and be effective in the box. Wood’s all-round display promised much for the coming season and the coup de grâce he delivered before his late withdrawal was fitting reward for his potent contribution on the day.
The highlight though, as far as the actual football was concerned, was Alex Mowatt‘s opener for United, coming as it did at the end of a shimmering bout of passing which followed Giuseppe Bellusci‘s initial surge forward from defence. The ball was switched about among the yellow shirts with speed and precision, before a sublime one-two saw young Mowatt with the time and space to score from the right angle of the six yard box.
Wood’s clincher looked more spectacular at first sight, though his fine shot appeared to be aided in its looping flight into goal by a slight deflection. But both goals were well-taken and the overall performance of this reshaped Leeds team perhaps even merited the third that so nearly arrived near the final whistle, a mad goalmouth scramble somehow preserving some respectability for the well-beaten scousers.
Naturally, the Internet being the Internet, a disproportionate amount of attention was paid in the wake of this match to a chap who decided that his own undraped physique was what was really needed to top proceedings off. As a spectacle, the sight of such an undue amount of pale and naked skin, which would self-evidently have been better kept under wraps, proved to be a case of Much Ado About Not Very Much. Well, it’s been a chilly summer of late.
Unlike the nude intruder, however, Leeds can hold themselves erect with pride at a highly encouraging display which will see them start the season proper hopefully in fine fettle – and ready to batter more Lancastrians in the shape of Burnley. Fittingly for Yorkshire Day, the honours from this friendly Roses clash belonged very firmly on the right side of the Pennines. And while there have been no 16-0 victories in this pre-season, there’s a very definite feeling that we’re in much better shape now, then we were twelve months ago.