Leeds United 1 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Albion's unbeaten start to the season came to an end as Leeds leapfrogged them into top spot in the Championship after a lively and entertaining game at Elland Road.
Slaven Bilic decided to put Hal Robson-Kanu up front in place of Zohore and Austin as Albion had to battle hard to survive an intial onslaught before taking charge for large parts of the game. But the only goal came towards the end of the first half when Jack Harison was given too much space and fed Ezgjan Alioski whose shot across goal was deflected by Kyle Bartley past Sam Johnstone.
Both keepers had to work hard to keep the scores down, Johnstone producing a double save from Patrick Bamford and Helder Costa, while his opposite number, Kiko Casilla, stopped a powerful shot from Matheus Pereira late in the game.
Albion slipped to second place, now trailing Leeds by a point.
A disappointing result that followed a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance but I doubt I'll be the only Albion fan who watched that and thought we should've got something out of it, and how it was a world away from some of the defeats we suffered last season.
Big Slav went with HRK up front over Austin and I think that was understandable given the impact he's had off the bench and the way Leeds play - I expect that tactic was to bypass their press and get it into his feet early to roll away.
Longer term observers of HRK might have been a bit angrier by the decision because he rarely takes the opportunity when starting and doesn't do enough to stretch teams - and they'd probably have felt vindicated by the first half.
I thought we were slow to start with Leeds dominating the first 15 minutes. We did okay defensively and didn't take risks although I felt the decision to keep 2 centre backs on the edge of the 6 yard box for goal kicks which then went long and wide to fullbacks was bit bizarre and put us into trouble a couple of times. Is it really so bad for them to take up normal positions and go long through the middle?
We rode a bit of a storm without SJ having to make too many saves and at times from then on won the ball well high but didn't capitalise or take the right decisions when in really good and dangerous situations- one particular effort saw HRK shoot tamely.
Our biggest issue was that were weren't in control and too many of our players were not doing the hard yards - Leeds work really hard and are always on the move and you really have to earn the right to play against them by going with your runner as they push, pass and move. I thought HRK, Phillips and Sawyers were the worst culprits - the latter doing a bit of a vanishing act similar to that against Fulham.
When we did win set pieces they were terrible - back to this 2 men over every one of them and some poor delivery, seemingly unaware of Leeds' propensity to concede from them. Honestly, Pereira takes a great one - just swing them in onto Semi's yead!
In the end this cost us as Leeds took the lead through a slightly deflected goal which was a bit lucky but probably deserved based upon the first half. We nearly gifted them a 2nd before half time but SJ made a fine double-save to keep us in it and you were left wondering whether Slav would make a triple sub straight away.
As it was we came out for the 2nd half without any changes but we at least upped the effort and the first 10 minutes or so saw us begin to pin Leeds back, create some good moments but not quite a clear opening. HRK and Phillips made way for Krovinovic and Zohore with Pereira going to play wide right.
And from then on really we utterly dominated the game save for some threatening breaks from Leeds - who in fairness always got a shot away and looked to have more of a cutting edge than us - we probably gave them as a good a hiding as they've had this year or last without putting the ball away.
We pressed further up the pitch, Ajayi leading the way with some brave strides forward and Ferguson pushing on in a way he couldn't first half. I thought Krovinovic took the sting out of Leeds be keeping the ball calmly even in tight areas which opened up space for Sawyers to get into the game and Pereira/Diangana pulled them all over the place. Zohore's ability to run in behind but also do the basics with holding the ball up also gave us a bit more and it genuinely felt like we'd get something but it wouldn't quite go for us.
During this dominant period Livermore was a bit of a spare part, working commendably but not offering a goal threat, and so he made way for Edwards with 10 to go as we gave it a final push - Krov dropping deeper and Pereira coming back into the centre.
It didn't happen but it was a second half performance to be proud of. Being brutally honest, against one of the better teams in the league and with so much of the ball in and around their box it really highlighted what we know - we're a decent striker away from possibly running away with the division. There were so many times when we worked it well and you just needed the bit of clever movement or quick and accurate attempt at goal instead of the extra pass or the delayed shot that ended up being blocked. It didn't *feel* like Austin would be that guy because it was so important to match Leeds physically. It needs to be addressed in January and in the interim I really think we've got to try something else for the next 10 games - maybe Phillips there or Edwards.
Overall it was a positive performance and there was little to be downhearted about other than the marginal result. The key in this league is to move on quickly and beat Cardiff at the weekend.
All text, pictures and graphics are copyright of BOING unless otherwise stated