Last night’s victory over Brentford was not a pretty thing, it was not the beautiful football we have come to expect from Marcelo Bielsa’s side but it was an important victory nonetheless. Some have said it was the ‘worst performance of the season’ and it probably was in terms of free-flowing football but it was the kind of game which we would have ended up drawing or losing last year and we came away with all three points.
Brentford pressed excellently in the first half and really stifled our game, limiting Leeds to possession in their own third. When the ball was worked into midfield our passing was uncharacteristically poor, especially from our talisman Pablo Hernandez who seemed a bit laboured all game. When Pablo is off his game, Leeds United usually are too. On the positive side we looked solid from a defensive point of view with Brentford limited to a couple of long shots, one of which cracked the inside of the post.
Phillips and Forshaw did a lot of clearing up in defensive midfield and Cooper and White looked solid at the back. We've only allowed six successful passes into the box in our four games so far which is testament to the defensive performances this season. There will be games where our passing and cutting edge is not what is expected but at least if we can remain solid defensively we know we always have the quality to score a goal even if playing poorly. At times last season, even when winning, the opposition seemed to carve us open time after time.
Leeds bided their time and the good defensive work paid off, particularly in the second half when Brentford could not maintain the high press and the game opened up. The better chances were undeniably theirs, the two Bamford headers, the penalty shout and Klich's shot compared to a couple of long range efforts from Brentford. Elland Road was in full voice but with the hour mark passing the nerves began to set in a little bit, fortunately Marcelo Bielsa has a quality of firepower to bring on from the bench we didn’t have last season.
Costa and Nketiah were obviously the difference makers. Costa is really busy and doesn't look short of confidence - always looking to get into the box. Nketiah has great instincts, and is incredibly promising. The goal itself was incredibly beautiful, the weight of pass from Klich, the composure of Costa, to go with his speed, to get into the perfect position and deliver the perfect cross and the excellent movement and speed from Eddie to get into a position where he was completely isolated for a simple tap in.
A more pragmatic performance than the ‘total football’ we have become accustomed to but an important win against a team who we have not performed well against in recent seasons. It looks as though we could be learning some of the lessons of last season and with game changes such as Costa and Nketiah available we have the ability to turn around games.
Leeds United 1, Brentford 0 - Winning ugly is just as good!