Tag Archives: red card

Derby Well Aware of How to Beat Leeds: Concede a Penalty, Go Down to Ten Men – by Rob Atkinson

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Genius Lampard, wondering how early to concede that penalty and go down to ten men

There are no flies on Derby County supercoach Frank Lampard. All season long, he’s been pointing out that anything Marcelo Bielsa can do, he can do at least as well, or even better. When Bielsa gave his Powerpoint presentation in the wake of Spygate, Lampard was swift to assure anyone who would listen that “we do that too”. And when Leeds United‘s coach earned plaudits for sportsmanship after insisting that Aston Villa be permitted to score an equaliser at Elland Road, Fearless Frank was there again, insisting that his team also stood back to let the opposition score, and pointing to the evidence of two league games against Leeds this season when they have politely conceded six goals in achieving zero points.

And now, it appears that the Lampard genius has identified the fatal weakness in the Elland Road psyche, whereby the Whites are quite incapable of avoiding defeat when the opposition concede a penalty and are reduced to ten men. Both Wigan and Ipswich have employed this crafty route to victory against Leeds, ridding themselves of their habitual uselessness to baffle the Whites into defeat. It’s a ploy that a man of Lampard’s ability will not have failed to note; stand by for a wild Richard Keogh swipe to bring down Kemar Roofe in the box as he bears down on goal early in the first leg at Pride Park. Red card, penalty – and it’ll be “job done”, as a certain former Rams manager might say.

I jest, of course. The thing is, though – in this crazy season, where the unlikely and the unimaginable have become the norm – something as daft as that could well happen. The only difference might be that it wouldn’t happen in Leeds’ favour. The Whites enter the playoffs at such a low ebb, you can’t help seeing your glass as half-empty, if not drained to the dregs.

Then again, they do say that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. It’s been a pretty dark, bleak month to finish off a dismal second half of the season, so the rosy glow of a new dawn for Leeds United might just be about to light up that far horizon, beyond which lies the Promised Land of the Premier League. You just never know.

Marching On Together!

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Pointless Appealing: Leeds Must Accept O’Kane Red and Move On with Business – by Rob Atkinson

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Eunan O’Kane – bang to rights for sheer stupidity

One of the less controversial aspects of the defeat at Portman Road, where Leeds failed to make the most of an unremarkable Ipswich Town side pretty much there for the taking, was the straight red dismissal of Eunan O’Kane for violent conduct. The video evidence is incontrovertible; O’Kane, despite the inevitable protests, is bang to rights and was positively begging to be sent off; the referee, only yards from the incident, was always going to oblige.

What leaves a nastier than usual taste in the mouth is that this particular piece of lunacy, which went some way towards ensuring that his team-mates, employers and supporters would end up empty-handed, came hard on the heels of what now seems a rather sanctimonious tweet expressing disappointment over the equally stupid transgression of Samu Saiz a week earlier at Newport. People in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones, we might reflect. To his credit, O’Kane himself left the field without protest; the expostulations have come from other quarters. Meanwhile, the whole sorry affair threatens to deflect us all from the more important issues arising out of this and other recent failures.

The uncomfortable fact is that, in the last three league games, Leeds United have failed to score one single solitary goal, That’s over 270 minutes of huffing and puffing to no effect, during which time they have contrived to lose to Birmingham, who were swatted aside 3-0 by Derby yesterday, and gain one point from a Nottingham Forest side who set out to stifle Leeds and comfortably managed it. Leaving aside the inglorious FA Cup episode at Newport, Leeds are suffering in the league, which is far, far more important. The loss of Saiz for six games deprives us of much of the limited cutting edge we’ve had and, without quality reinforcements during this window, the fear is that the season could be fizzling out rather early.

What appears to be happening, in line with the predictions of many much earlier in the campaign, is that the lack of depth in United’s squad is being exposed by a smattering of injuries and suspensions. These are occupational hazards of an attritional league programme, and will happen to any but the most fortunate of clubs – but the difference at the top end of the table will be the deeper resources of those who have invested sensibly in quality, providing competent back-up for most positions. United’s over-reliance on young, raw possibles, like Jay Roy Grot for instance, is ample proof that their recruitment at first team level has been – so far, at any rate – inadequate for the rigours of a Championship season.

One transfer move that has been completed, and for a player seemingly ready to step into the first team picture, too, is that of Yosuke Ideguchi, a highly-rated midfielder whose signing is seen as something of a coup for the Elland Road club. How strange it is then that, after a work permit was unexpectedly forthcoming, Ideguchi’s loan to Spanish side Cultural Leonesa has still gone ahead. One thing Leeds United really needs, to allow them maybe the luxury of playing two up top, is a combative box-to-box midfielder which might permit such a change of shape. On the bright side, the welcome signing of Laurens de Bock will provide options across the defensive line, with the versatility of Gaetano Berardi possibly allowing him to be more effective when freed from his unaccustomed left-back berth.

And it really is important to look on the bright side, after what has been a dismal January so far, especially on the field of play. The next two weeks, and this is no exaggeration, will define the rest of our season. The word from the club is that they are working hard to bring in players, with a striker high on the shopping list. As Leeds fans, we should perhaps avoid being distracted by pointless and futile appeals over daft red cards – and hope that the powers that be down LS11 way can see the urgency of the situation in and around the first team squad. The play-offs are still somehow a tantalising possibility, offering at least the chance of an exciting climax to the campaign. It’s down to the club now as to whether or not they have the ambition to seize the day and give us all a second half of this season to relish.

Really, after the start to 2018 Leeds United have provided, that’s the very least we deserve.

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times, for Leeds Starlet Cook   –   by Rob Atkinson

 
For any lad that grows up supporting his local club, nursing the dream of one day turning out in that sacred shirt – and who actually makes that dream come true – there can be no sweeter moment than that precious first goal for the team he loves. Tonight, in the humble surroundings of Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, that longed-for moment arrived for Lewis Cook, when he stabbed home a rebound of the Donny ‘keeper to notch his first senior goal for Leeds United.

Sadly, the fairytale would have no happy ending. Leeds had already been pegged back thanks to Scott Wootton‘s agricultural challenge in the United area, leading to a Rovers penalty that stand-in guardian Ross Turnbull narrowly failed to save. And then came Cook’s moment of misery to erase his earlier joy. Surging down the right on a mazy run, the youngster took a slightly heavy touch, overstretched in his attempt to keep possession – and walked for a resulting foul that looked even worse than it was. Thanks to that mad moment, it would be ten-man Leeds for the rest of the piece, and a Yorkshire derby cup tie was ruined as a spectacle. 

The Doncaster fans in the crowd, eager to see the home team compass the demise of local favourites Leeds, were suitably encouraged and filled with hope – but for the remainder of ninety minutes plus extra time, Rovers showed no real sign of being able to dispatch their numerically weakened opponents. Indeed, for much of the rest of the tie, it was Leeds looking marginally more effective going forward. But in what became a war of attrition, neither side was able to land the telling blow, and the game trudged its inevitable way to deadlock and the dreaded shoot-out.

Ironically, Leeds’ two eventual lottery losers were the second half substitutes who had done most to rekindle some hope among the Leeds faithful that United could yet emerge winners. Chris Wood and Sam Byram had given an extra dimension to United’s stubborn rearguard action, and both showed plenty going forward to suggest how vital they will be in the season ahead. But their two penalties in the shootout – Byram’s only mildly awful, but Woods’ truly abysmal – cost Leeds a real chance of victory,  an unlikely chance that had been so ruggedly earned in the ten-man struggle following Cook’s first-half indiscretion.

So, Leeds are out of this competition again, to lower league opposition again, with ten men after having taken the lead, again – and in another derby as last season’s farce in Bradford was reprised only a little less farcically in Doncaster. And, really, what the hell. We were no more likely to win the League Cup than Rovers are now.

Few United fans will mourn such an early exit. It was not the defeat that rankled, more the manner of it. Another long struggle with ten men, with energy cruelly sapped ahead of a far more important game at the weekend. Head Coach Uwe Rösler had spoken prior to the match of taking the game to Rovers, an approach that is “in our DNA”. Fair enough, but it is the suicidal part of United’s genetic makeup that needs to be addressed, that fatal tendency to give away daft penalties and lose players to red cards through rash tackles. Herr Rösler has his work cut out to eliminate such innate, self-destructive traits. 

After the dust has settled on a night to forget, we must spare a thought for young Lewis Cook, for whom a magical moment, eagerly awaited for literally all his life, was so swiftly eclipsed by a rash and reckless lunge he’ll long regret. Fortunately, there is ample time and opportunity for redemption where one of United’s brightest prospects is concerned.

Lewis Cook undeniably has the talent and character that ensures he can and will bounce back, to forget tonight’s temporary woe and enjoy many more of the best of times, in the Leeds shirt he promises – transfer follies permitting – to grace for many years to come. 

Spurs Pay the Usual Penalty for Failing to Finish Off Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Look ref - here's what you do...

Look ref – here’s what you do…

Yesterday’s entertaining draw at White Hart Lane featured a Spurs team trying to recover from their six-goal hiding at Man City last time out, and a Man U team which featured Wayne Rooney, who should have been absent suspended after his wild kick at Cardiff last week, the type of foul for which only a Man U shirt will exempt the offender from a richly-deserved red card.  Rooney, let us not forget, scored twice at Cardiff when he should by rights have been wallowing in self-pity and an early bath.  And he scored twice again at Spurs, one of them a traditionally dodgy penalty as Welbeck somehow managed to hit the arm of keeper Lloris with his trailing leg and collapse like a house of cards – as per the kind of training drills they’ve provided at Carrington and the Cliff for years now.

The four goals Rooney has scored, when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch at all, have garnered the Pride of Devon 2 points that might well otherwise have been none.  David Moyes therefore has the nervousness of referees to thank for there not being a great deal more pressure on him this morning.  It was a factor that had often come to the aid of his curmudgeonly predecessor.  Plus ça change…

Spurs had taken the lead twice, firstly from a zippy Kyle Walker free-kick blasted along the ground under the defensive wall.  The Man U defenders had jumped in anticipation of something quite different, ending up politely letting Walker’s effort through to beat an unsighted de Gea.  The second Tottenham goal was a real beauty, Sandro looking up and striking a violent shot which soared into the net under the angle of post and crossbar, leaving the keeper rooted to the spot.

In between the two Tottenham strikes, Walker had gone from hero to zero when a cross ball into the Spurs area hit him too briskly for him to control it and bounced fortuitously into the path of Rooney (who shouldn’t have been playing).  Sandro’s goal was worthy of deciding any match, any time, anywhere. It was so good that Man U should really have put their hands up and said, ok – fair enough.  Instead, spoilsports that they are, they waited only three minutes before playing their penalty joker.  As Welbeck hit the ground, referee Dean had already sprung eagerly into life, risking muscle injury in his haste to sprint towards the penalty spot where he stood, quivering with virtue and resolution as he pointed for the award that was a foregone conclusion.  And Rooney – who should have been back home in Manchester – blasted his penalty down the middle to deny Spurs the win they probably deserved.

After the match, AVB – a man who has been under the cosh all week – was a mixture of defiant and philosophical.  He dismissed the rantings of the gutter rags with admirable contempt, not being drawn into any discussion of the scorn heaped upon his head since the disaster at the Etihad.  As for the Man U penalty, he simply shrugged and pointed out that he’s seen their players hang a leg out to win penalties before.  He knows, as we all do, that these are the penalties refs will always give at the end Man U are attacking, just as the ones they give in the area they’re defending are as common as hens’ teeth.  It’s the way of the world – and you could empathise with the Spurs manager’s wearily resigned acceptance of it. But rival managers must surely be heartily sick of this ridiculous quirk of the game by now. It’s been over twenty years, and the wonder is that, even with such a helpful wind at their backs, Man U have somehow contrived not to be champions on several occasions. That’s like tossing a double-headed coin and calling “tails”.

For all that it could have been worse for Man U, had Rooney been dismissed last week as he should have been, and had Welbeck been booked for deliberately tripping over the keeper’s hapless arm yesterday, as he should have been – still, two points from two away games is not vintage stuff.  But it’s two more than they should have had, and those nicked points might just count at the end of the season – even if it’s only to get Man U into the Europa League ahead of the likes of Newcastle.

Managers come and go, but some things never change, it seems – and so the fading champions are “only” nine points behind Arsenal, who looked irresistible at Cardiff.  There’s a long way to go yet – and surely there won’t be a defender’s gift and a soft penalty for Man U every week?  Watch this space.