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[Archived] News Article -> 2012/13 Match Report: Leeds United 3 Rovers 3

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Leeds United (1) 3 – 3 (2) Blackburn Rovers
Diouf 41, McCormack 56,
Becchio 65
Olsson 19, Gomes 27,
Rochina 84
Referee: N. Swarbrick Attendance: 24,411

This was the archetypical game of two halves. For the opening forty-five minutes the Rovers looked completely at ease as they stroked the ball around and played with a confidence not seen for some time. The magical left foot of Morten Gamst Pedersen continually opened up the home defence and he had a hand in both of the Rovers' opening goals, which were superbly finished by Markus Olsson and Nuno Gomes. Such was the dominance of the Rovers during this opening period that one really couldn't see Leeds getting back into the game until, of course, former Rover El-Hadji Diouf popped up, just before half-time, to reduce the arrears.

In the second half Leeds looked a totally different proposition. Whereas they had earlier seemed in awe of the Rovers, giving Steve Kean's men time and space in which to play, they suddenly started to close the Rovers down, tackles became more robust and a general sense of urgency now filled their ranks. Goals from Ross McCormack and Luciano Becchio turned the match on its head and for a time it looked as though Neil Warnock's side would totally overrun the Rovers. Fortunately, Ruben Rochina, who had been his usual frustrating self since his arrival as substitute, provided a moment of impudence that snatched a point that was the very least that Steve Kean's team deserved for their first-half performance.

After the disappointing performance against MK Dons, the manager opted for a more experienced line-up against Leeds and, as expected, Jordan Rhodes was given his debut following his £8 million move from Huddersfield Town. Kean also rewarded Bruno Ribeiro for his recent impressive performances by giving him the right-back berth ahead of Bradley Orr. Jason Lowe also dropped down to the bench as Mauro Formica was given the nod on the right of midfield.

On a pleasantly warm and sunny afternoon the Rovers immediately took the game to Leeds and Pedersen forced a decent save out of Paddy Kenny.

The Rovers suffered a blow after only ten minutes when Scott Dann had to leave the field, to be replaced by Grant Hanley, while Gael Givet picked up a knock which saw him limp through the rest of the match.

Nuno Gomes was the next to try his luck from long range, but once again Kenny was equal to it and safely gathered the ball in by the foot of a post.

However, the pressure finally told after 19 minutes when Olsson gave the Rovers the lead. The ball was worked to Pedersen on the left and the Norwegian international played a delightful ball with his left foot which set Olsson free behind the home defence. As he cut in from the left wing he had both Gomes and Rhodes waiting in the centre of the area but opted to go it alone and drilled the ball low and hard past Kenny into the opposite corner of the net.

Eight minutes later the Rovers had doubled their lead and, once again, Pedersen was at the heart of the move. He again fed Olsson on the left wing with another peach of a pass and the Swedish youngster again raced forward, but on this occasion, instead of going for goal, he pulled the ball back for Gomes to beat Kenny with a pinpoint effort.

The Rovers looked increasingly comfortable as Leeds had no answer to the quick interplay between the likes of Pedersen, Olsson, Murphy, Etuhu and Gomes. Sadly, the Rovers were unable to convert this possession into further goals and although he looked neat and tidy with the ball, Rhodes struggled to make much impression in the penalty area.

As the half drew to a close, the home side found an extra spark thanks to the promptings of Diouf. The former Rover, who had switched wings and suddenly popped up on the left, started to win a few rather generous free-kicks in the way only Diouf can. From one of these the Rovers failed to clear their lines and when the ball was played back in, Paul Robinson seemed to be impeded as he came to punch the ball away. Under pressure he failed to make a proper connection and Diouf prodded home from close range.

The Senegalese international might well have had a second just a couple of minutes later but for a wonderful tip over the bar from Robinson when he looked to be beaten.

Leeds came out for the second half a totally different side to the one that had started the game. Initially they had seemed in awe of the Rovers, but clearly Neil Warnock had dispelled any such thoughts during the interval. Leeds now began to press the Rovers in a way which they hadn't previously and, combined with some hefty challenges, they began to knock the Rovers off their stride. Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu began to struggle to keep a grip in the centre, whilst Givet, who was clearly not fully recovered from a first-half knock, was not his dominant self and Hanley, who had been poor against MK Dons, continued to struggle.

However, when Leeds did equalise on 56 minutes, the goal was surrounded in controversy. A ball from Drury was about to be headed clear by Givet, but the French international received a nudge in the back which meant he missed the ball, which ran through for McCormack. With Hanley too far away to cover his partner, McCormack took the ball on and then smashed it past the helpless Robinson.

On 65 minutes Leeds stormed into the lead and, once again, Diouf had a hand in the goal. When a half-cleared free-kick found its way to Diouf on the right wing, he merely lifted the ball to the far post where Becchio was on hand to head home. At the time he looked suspiciously offside, but the linesman, who was looking right along the line, deemed it to be onside.

Apart from a shot from Gomes which flew narrowly over the bar, the Rovers were now non-existent as an attacking force. Murphy was struggling to maintain a grip in midfield and was being harried into making mistakes. Etuhu began to drop deeper and Rhodes became increasingly isolated. Leeds continued to up the tempo and had a goal disallowed as they dominated possession. In a bid to stem the tide, Kean switched Lowe, who had earlier replaced Formica, and Ribeiro.

Six minutes from time the Rovers snatched an equaliser from a Pedersen corner. When the ball fell to Rochina, he had his back to goal, but a cheeky back-heeled effort caught everyone by surprise and found the back of the net.

Both sides had chances to win it in the closing stages. Another wonderful flowing move by the Rovers ended with Etuhu racing through and firing narrowly over. At the other end Diouf ought to have scored, but Olsson's last-ditch challenge resulted in the Leeds man firing over.

A point each was probably a fair result as both sides enjoyed spells of dominance during the game. The Rovers completely overran Leeds during the opening forty minutes and really ought to have put the game to bed, such was their superiority.

In the second half, Leeds looked a different team and denied the Rovers the time and space in which to play.

Although it looked as if he was fouled, Robinson will probably be disappointed with the first Leeds goal but was left totally exposed for the other two goals. He did well enough on his return to Elland Road and his first-half save from Diouf was outstanding.

Bruno Ribeiro had another neat and tidy game at full-back and did well when he was moved further forward late in the game. Markus Olsson had an outstanding game at left-back and was, once again, the only serious threat in terms of pace that the Rovers had. He linked up well with Morten Gamst Pedersen, who was my man of the match. Pedersen was continually able to pick up the runs of Olsson in a manner that was very reminiscent of Dave Wagstaffe and a young John Bailey many moons ago.

In the centre of defence the Rovers were disrupted by injuries to Scott Dann and Gael Givet. Grant Hanley replaced Dann but once again looked very shaky and at the moment there is no doubt that Dann and Givet are the strongest centre-back pairing.

In the centre of midfield Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu started very well, but in the second half Murphy tired and Etuhu sat increasingly deeper as Leeds pushed forward. Mauro Formica, who has been disappointing up to this point, had one of his better games today and looked very impressive during the first half. He seemed to reveal a greater appetite for work and linked up play very well on the right.

As I said earlier, Pedersen was outstanding and almost scored direct from a corner on one occasion as well as having a major hand in the opening two goals.

Nuno Gomes again showed that he is a class act with a superb strike for the second goal. He is still adjusting to the pace of English football and, like Murphy, is going to have to be used sparingly at times during the course of the season. However, in terms of playing in the hole behind the main striker, there is no doubt that at the moment he is the best-equipped player for this role.

Jordan Rhodes had a fairly quiet debut. He looked neat and tidy in possession but never threatened to do any damage to the Leeds defence. Clearly it is going to take time to adjust to the Rovers' system of play.

Ruben Rochina will capture the headlines with his cheeky back-heeled effort, but once again his poor decision-making was a cause of frustration for fans and teammates alike. His insistence on shooting from long range when colleagues are in better positions is a continuing cause of concern. Less of the individualism and more awareness of the team dynamic would greatly enhance his opportunities for a starting place.

Whilst some might see this as two points dropped, I left Elland Road feeling that this was a point gained. Indeed, for the first time this season I left a ground feeling genuinely optimistic about the prospects for the season. Having gone behind, it was a test of the team's resolve and, fortunately, they weren't found wanting. The Championship is going to be a battle, in every sense of the word, and today the Rovers will have gained an insight into what is going to be required over the course of a season. As well as playing football, which they did well for forty minutes, there is going to be a need to be able to dig in and defend a narrow lead, something which they have been unable to do so far.

Nonetheless, eight points from four games is a pretty decent return under the circumstances and is exactly the type of return needed for an automatic promotion place. It is, of course, early days as yet, but the signs are encouraging in that the Rovers find themselves second in the table without being at their best for the course of a full ninety minutes.

Finally, a word of praise for El-Hadji Diouf, who received a warm welcome from the Rovers fans and who, in turn, showed his appreciation to the travelling support. If only the manager had been able to handle him and deal with one or two other strong characters, one suspects that we would not now be sampling Championship football. However, that is the past and promotion has to be the aim to safeguard the long-term future of the club. Thus far, the points return has been better than many, including myself, expected. At the end of the season if we can return to the top flight, I suspect few will complain about how it was achieved.


Leeds United

Paddy Kenny; Lee Peltier, Tom Lees, Jason Pearce, Adam Drury; El-Hadji Diouf, Rodolph Austin, David Norris, Luke Varney (Sam Byram 90); Luciano Becchio, Ross McCormack
Subs not used: Jamie Ashdown (gk), Paddy Kisnorbo, Aidan White, Michael Brown, Andy Gray, Dominic Poleon
Manager: Neil Warnock

Blackburn Rovers

Paul Robinson; Bruno Ribeiro, Scott Dann (Grant Hanley 10), Gael Givet, Markus Olsson; Mauro Formica (Jason Lowe 55), Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Morten Gamst Pedersen; Nuno Gomes (Ruben Rochina 75); Jordan Rhodes
Subs not used: Jake Kean (gk), Bradley Orr, Paulo Jorge, Edinho
Manager: Steve Kean


Leeds United – Adam Drury, Luke Varney

Blackburn Rovers – Mauro Formica, Grant Hanley, Dickson Etuhu

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