Tag Archives: Pablo Hernandez

Can Leeds United be the First Club Promoted Without Being Awarded a Single Penalty? – by Rob Atkinson

Lash Lorimer

Peter Lorimer demonstrates his penalty technique – from the days when we used to get them

Assuming Leeds United are not awarded a penalty at the DW Stadium during their televised meeting with Wigan Athletic on Sunday (and it’s a fair assumption, as we have seen this season, when some pretty good claims have been ignored) then the Whites will have clocked up 54 league matches without getting a single spot kick. In that time, many an obvious penalty has been refused United and, of the nine awarded against them, there have been some right stinkers, such as the ones given to Stoke and Brentford since the start of the current campaign.

This has now become quite a story in various media, and it makes you wonder what effect it might have on the referees and other officials in charge of United’s games going forward. My guess is that it will simply steel their resolve; no self-respecting, God-fearing, righteously Leeds-hating referee wants to be seen as bowing to external pressure, after all. So it could be a while yet before Leeds get a penalty, and when they do, Pablo Hernandez will probably miss it (as he did our last one, sometime around the Napoleonic Wars).

So – assuming that the record continues – could we actually go a whole league season without one single penalty kick? That’s not unknown, actually, at least in the Premier League, which is the only division for which I’ve seen these statistics. It’s still quite rare, though, and I honestly do wonder whether, in the Championship, with its higher incidence of what we may term “agricultural defending”, it’s really feasible that a club can actually draw a blank for the whole campaign. But I stand to be corrected and, as ever, I welcome any informed input.

Even if any team has previously played a second tier campaign without even one penalty, I’d have serious doubts over whether that team would have managed to be promoted. Any club looked on so unfavourably by match officials must surely feel as though its card is well and truly marked, especially if they keep on getting dodgy penalties awarded against them. That’s been the Leeds United experience so far this term – and yet, despite the additional problem of injuries to key personnel, the Whites ride high in the table, and will look forward to kicking on when (if) the treatment room gets a little less busy.

Leeds have shown every sign so far that, at their best, they don’t need refereeing generosity (or even common sense) in order to win Championship matches. They’ve managed to stay right up there, even in spite of some appalling decisions against them. So – assuming I’m correct to say that no team has ever been promoted without at least one penalty being given to them – could Leeds United be the first to achieve such a difficult challenge?

I actually think that United really could see their penalty drought extend to cover the whole season, despite the fact that we have tricky players who can only be stopped by chopping them down – and yet I remain optimistic of success, hopefully via the automatic route. Because, as well as the “no penalties for you, Leeds” rule, there’s also the well-established law that United just don’t do play-offs. So it’s top two or bust for us, penalties notwithstanding.

I’d really like to know if this would be a first, and I might even check the odds and have a moderate punt on it. But, if any friendly Statto out there knows better, and can prove that I’m barking up the wrong tree, and that it’s all been done before – then, please, let me know. Ideally before I part with any of my brass to Big Bad Bert the Bent Bookie. Thank you.

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Hull Well and Truly Pablo’d as Leeds Grind Out Three More Points – by Rob Atkinson

Genius: Pablo Hernandez

For the third home game in succession, Leeds United managed just a solitary goal at Elland Road – and for the second time on the trot, it was enough to take the three points on offer. Although Aston Villa salvaged a draw after falling behind, the last two visitors to Elland Road, the Cities of Norwich and Hull, have departed without troubling the scorers – despite making the Whites weather some heavy pressure. It’s been a less than convincing run of home games for Leeds, but the ends have justified the means, with only the United fans’ bitten down nails telling the story of how nervy the performances have, by and large, been. But Leeds are starting to rise to the challenge of exploiting Elland Road’s cauldron-like atmosphere, something they’ve too often failed to do in the past.

Against Hull yesterday, a pre-match hammer-blow turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The absence of talisman Samu Saiz caused a collective groan among the 35,000 faithful who had congregated to worship United’s brightest star. It was a groan that rippled throughout social media, sending a frisson of apprehension through the virtual Leeds universe, all we of little faith wondering if we’d have the creativity to deal with our rivals from Humberside. But the enforced rest for Samu (tight calf, didn’t feel right, should be back for Burton away) meant a start for United’s Pablo Hernandez, and it was the little Latin genius who provided the decisive moment almost half an hour into a first half that Hull had threatened to dominate.

After the visitors had put Leeds on the back foot for the most part, creating presentable chances while the hosts huffed and puffed to no great effect, Hernandez seized upon a shockingly poor clearance from City’s previously untroubled keeper Allan McGregor; swiftly sizing up the situation, Pablo snapped up possession, moved forward and produced an outrageous dinked chip over the advancing McGregor, the ball dropping sweetly under the bar and into the net to give United an advantage that, after the Norwich game the previous week, you thought they might well hold onto.

In truth, Hull were less of a threat after the goal than before, just as their fans were largely silent once behind, having exhausted their repertoire of songs about dead perverts and cities of culture – an ironic enough playlist while it lasted. Afterwards, Hull manager Nigel Adkins bemoaned the lack of reward for his team’s industry, estimating a 3:1 ratio in his team’s favour on chances created. Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen was disarmingly honest: “We were lucky to take the three points,” he acknowledged.

One big reason behind that win was much-maligned Leeds keeper Felix Wiedwald, who produced a string of fine saves before United took the lead, one great example being a full-stretch tip around the post in the very first minute. Felix looked solid throughout, and it was reassuring to see him looking so confident and self-assured, without those occasional Sprake-esque howlers.

It was Hernandez who made the crucial difference, though, with Leeds creating little else of note other than a good effort from Gjanni Alioski as the interval approached. At the end of this derby, Leeds could reflect upon another gritty home performance and three points to see them back in the playoff zone. As for Hull, they had positives to take from their early domination, but departed for their City of Culture disappointed, chastened – well and truly Pablo’d.

Last Gasp Bullet Header from Jansson Sees Leeds Win at Blackburn – by Rob Atkinson

jansson-and-co

Jansson & Co – victorious at Blackburn

The Leeds United team tasked with laying the grisly ghost of FA Cup humiliation at Sutton last Sunday contained only one survivor of that sorry afternoon. And, fittingly, it was that one man, Stuart Dallas, who finally made the breakthrough after 74 minutes last night at Blackburn Rovers, as United made a belated start on making up to their fans for such an awful lapse. Latching onto a sumptuous cross-field ball from Liam Bridcutt, the Ulsterman took one touch on his chest before firing in left-footed from the left of the penalty area into the far right-hand corner of Rovers’ net.

What had gone before was a lot of huffing and puffing, with quality at a premium but no little effort. League strugglers Blackburn were earnest but incompetent, while high-flying Leeds threatened more but failed to deliver. A major feature of the match was the sight of the home team’s attacks being repelled time after time by United’s returning colossus Pontus Jansson. As it turned out, in making so many aerial clearances, Jansson was just warming up his forehead to deliver a late coup de grâce in typically emphatic and ebullient fashion.

It was a goal-laden final quarter of an hour to finish a match that had been mostly dour and scrappy. Once Leeds had taken the lead, you fancied them to hang on and see the evening out. Ten minutes after the Dallas opener, though, Leeds keeper Rob Green managed somehow to let a scrappy bobbling low shot slip past him at the foot of his left hand post, and it looked as though the hosts would salvage an unlikely point. In previous seasons, we might even have worried that such a late pegging-back of a hard-earned lead would result in United chucking even a draw away and ending up beaten. But this Leeds side is made of sterner stuff – and they showed the character and persistence to come storming back and seal a late, late victory.

The winner, when it came, had a familiar look about it. United have been quite lethal from corners lately, with the diminutive Spanish trickster Pablo Hernandez seemingly able to place his corner kicks precisely where he wants to. On this occasion, he floated the ball with quality and accuracy into exactly the right cubic foot of Ewood Park airspace, where the hurtling Jansson met it resoundingly to send his header flashing into the back of the net, before the massed ranks of the joyous, exultant travelling White Army. In almost the same last-gasp moment, miles away up on Tyneside, Newcastle conceded a comical own-goal equaliser to QPR, completing an instantaneous four-point swing in Leeds’ favour. As last minute bonuses go, even Carlsberg would be hard-pressed to do better.

So Leeds, after such a calamitous Cup capitulation (which may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise) march on in the league. Next stop is local rivals Huddersfield on Sunday, and Town themselves face a home clash with fellow contenders Brighton on Thursday evening, in a match Leeds fans will fervently be hoping that both teams can lose. For the moment, some measure of forgiveness can be extended to our heroes in white (who actually turned out at Blackburn in a decidedly natty yellow/blue/yellow ensemble). Such an ignominious exit from the FA Cup will take longer to forget than completely to forgive, yet any fan with yellow blue and white running through his or her veins will know that cups are merely tin-pot, compared to the holy grail nature of promotion.

The least welcome statistic of the evening was another yellow card for the redoubtable Jansson, but that sort of thing goes with the territory of his robust and committed approach to keeping the opposition at bay. As long as he can continue doing just that, with the occasional fringe benefit in the shape of decisive goals from crafty corners, then everybody who loves Leeds United will allow him some latitude in matters disciplinary.

Because, make no mistake, the iconic Jansson is set fair to become the biggest Leeds United hero since Gordon Strachan – and he may well soon emulate the diminutive Scot by leading the Whites back up where they belong.