Flashback: Victory over Blackburn leaves Leeds United ten points from promotion

03 Jul 2021 08:06 pm, by YorkshireSquare

Blackburn Rovers 1 (Armstrong 48)
Leeds United 3 (Bamford 7, Phillips 40, Klich 53)

Saturday 4th July 2020 15:00 | Ewood Park

Ups and downs, the clue is in the song! Even in the opening spell of games when football returned back in 2020, Leeds United gave us with plenty of those. The excitement of football finally returning was dashed in South Wales as Leeds United lost two nil to Cardiff City. Our place at the top of the table lost as we looked over our shoulders at Brentford, the nerves and anxieties of the previous season returning. The Fulham game saw confidence restored, a convincing second half performance, back on top of the table. Luton provided another wobble, a game we should have won against a team who lost five nil this weekend. Not the worst result but Brentford were still coming on strong.

Patrick Bamford’s goal after seven minutes on Saturday 4th July 2020 should have settled the nerves but I didn’t really. Mateusz Klich robbed Lewis Travis, setting up Bamford who coolly finished. A foul on Travis? Probably, the Blackburn defence certainly thought so but it’s not often a decision falls in our favour so I was happy to take one. Blackburn, to their credit, had come to play and kept carving out uncharacteristic gaps in the Leeds United defence. First Sam Gallagher waltzed through and pulled one just past the post before he opened up another gap, this time setting up Lewis Holtby who rattled one off the woodwork. Meslier looked beaten on both occasions but once again luck fell Leeds United’s way.

The storm weathered Leeds settled into the game, the defence tightened and the gaps disappeared. The presence of Helder Costa on the right wing was barely missed as Jack Harrison and Luke Alyling created plenty of opportunities. On the opposite side of the pitch Barry Douglas was a more than adequate replacement for the injured Stuart Dallas, a man of the match worthy performance said many. Whilst Alioski didn’t quite have the impact he has had from the bench in recent games he was steady, plugging away for 90 minutes like the Duracel Bunny he is. Klich put his poor post lockdown form behind him, back to his best? Controlling the middle of the park alongside Kalvin Phillips and it was Phillips who helped put ease the tension five minutes before half time.

Leeds United’s set pieces had become the subject of a certain about of ridicule the season, over 300 corners taken and only eight goals in return. It was a statistic that Kalvin Phillips had expressed a desire to improve on heading into the game and to be fair delivery was much improved. The first from Phillips was hit into a decent area even if no one managed to get on the end of it. The second from Douglas reminded us what he is cable of, his low ball to the near post met by Luke Ayling who rattled one against the post. When Tyler Roberts won a free kick thirty yards out on the forty-minute mark it was Douglas who Leeds fans were clamouring to take it. But it was not to be as Phillips stepped up to take, answering any questions fans may have had as the ball nestled into the top left-hand corner of the goal to give Leeds a two-nil lead.

The two-goal cushion wasn’t to last far into the second half as Adam Armstrong halved the deficit soon after half-time with a wonderful free-kick of his own from a similar position. There are plenty of question marks over whether it was actually a free kick or not, Phillips appeared to do little wrong when challenging for the ball but as with Klich’s challenge for Bamford’s goal, these things usually even themselves out. The final forty minutes of the game could have been a bit edgy but Mateusz Klich bagged a goal of his own to restore the deficit just five minutes later. Jack Harrison cut in from the right wing, his deflected shot finding its way to Klich on the edge of the area who in turn unleashed one that crept under the keepers arms.

The introduction of Pablo Hernandez for Tyler Roberts after the hour is as close to shutting up shop as Marcelo Bielsa is ever going to get but it had the effect of handing the control of the midfield to Leeds. The visitors had the majority of chances in the remaining half an hour, one of the clearest with just 15 minutes to go through as Patrick Bamford broke through the Blackburn defence only to be brought down just outside the area by Walton. The keeper received a yellow card for his intervention, but it surely should have been a red if he was the last man? Another bad decision for referee Rob Jones to chalk down that afternoon. The resulting free kick as duly taken by Douglas who forced a good save from Walton.

With victory secured and three points in the bag Leeds entered the final five fixtures of the 2019-2020 season needing only ten points to secure promotion, three wins and a draw would do it. The game against Charlton on the final day of the season would be Marcelo Bielsa’s 100th in charge. Fitting then if that was the day, in Leeds United’s 100th season, that they lifted the league title.