Leeds 1-0 Derby: Four Things We Learnt

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Leeds celebrate Wood’s winner – bbc.co.uk

Chris Wood’s first half header saw Leeds United cap a dominant display with a 1-0 win over Derby County. But what have we learnt from the game?

Superior pressing was the key

While Derby would struggle to get three players into the opposing half when they pressed centre-backs Kyle Bartley and Luke Ayling, Leeds often had six men there when they did the equivalent. Midfielder Ronaldo Vieira closed down goalkeeper Scott Carson on occasion and one player’s run would trigger a signal for the rest to follow suit. This meant that centre-backs Richard Keogh and Jason Shackell, who did little to challenge those who questioned his selection over Alex Pearce, were forced to pass the ball between themselves. Players in Derby’s defensive positions took too many touches, which meant they were unable to play around Leeds’ press. In the second half, the Rams were in a position that demanded urgency and yet could not apply the same intensity when in need of a goal as Leeds could with the score at 0-0.

Leeds shifted it quickly

Leeds’ more attacking players are not known for their pace, but what seemed apparent in each of them was an impressive speed of thought. Souleymane Doukara often cut inside from the left and his frame made it hard for opponents to win the ball off him effectively, which gave Leeds some control in the opposing half. Dovetailing with Doukara was Kemar Roofe, whose clever movement and link-up play tempted opposing players into a lot of fouls. Julien De Sart committed at least two on him prior to the loanee’s half-time withdrawal and Roofe’s runs also caused problems for Jamie Hanson and Abdoul Camara, who struggled to defend Derby’s left.

Derby lacked width and drive

Camara ran into traffic with the ball and seemingly away from traffic without it, his positional sense so desperately lacking that Steve McClaren took the 26-year-old off at half-time. Left-back Hanson looked uncomfortable away from his usual midfield role while right-back Chris Baird has never been the most attack-minded, meaning Derby lacked width. Tom Ince produced sporadic flashes of danger, producing the team’s first test of Robert Green on 45 minutes, before setting up substitute Matej Vydra for a counter-attacking chance after the interval. With Ince not a wide man to hug the byline however and no left footed winger in place after the break, Derby had nobody carrying the ball up the pitch from wide areas. Centrally, they had players with the necessary pace and power to cause Leeds problems, yet they failed to use their strengths with the same intent that Leeds showed.

Hernandez’s brilliant set plays

Chris Wood capped his hardworking performance with an impressive near-post header just before the interval, from Pablo Hernandez’s corner. Before then, the ex-Swansea mans corners had led to a string of saves from Carson, who denied Bartley’s close-range header, before the same defender fired wide from a simple back-post chance moments later. Almost all of Hernandez’s deliveries caused serious problems for Derby’s defence and the Spaniard was just as effective in open play. He weaved away from challengers like a bar of soap, opening up pockets of space just in front of the defence to create shooting opportunities. When Leeds were winning earlier in the season, supporters were still eagerly awaiting Hernandez’s return from a hamstring injury – after that performance, it is easy to see why.

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