Leeds United 0-1 Sheffield United: The Big Talking Points from Elland Road
The Star’s James Shield analyses some of the key talking points to emerge from today’s win over Leeds
The Midfield On paper, the decision to shift Chris Basham upfield made perfect sense. In practice, it did not quite work as planned during the opening exchanges. The cause of the problem - Leeds' ability to win possession in advanced positions and then apply pressure along the flanks - meant it would unfair to describe it as a tactical miscalculation. But it was an issue. Although Basham brought a more physical edge, all too often it was he rather than John Fleck or Oliver Norwood who found himself tasked with instigating an attack. Sensing he is not as adept as those two at escaping from tight spaces, Marcelo Bielsa's men swarmed all over the United man whenever he collected the ball. Once United got to grips with the nuances of the strategy, it began to work better.
The Dynamic Having initially struggled to establish a foothold in the game, Wilder's men applied more pressure when Fleck and Norwood began to see more of the ball. This turn of events also allowed Basham to become more of a threat, charging forward in the style to which United supporters have become accustomed in recent seasons. That change in dynamic saw United begin to pose some questions of their own, with David McGoldrick glancing a header wide from Fleck's corner and John Egan seeing an effort scrambled clear following a melee in Leeds' penalty area. Norwood, edging forward at the start of the second period, drove a shot over the crossbar after some good work by Billy Sharp.
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The Big Goal It was fitting that Basham scored the goal responsible for lifting United above Leeds in the table ahead of the international break. Deployed in a different role, he made a slow start to the contest and by his own admission could easily have been withdrawn at half time. But Basham showed enormous character, and persistence, to haul himself out of trouble and back into the game. As Wilder later said, that is the hallmark of a United player.
The Missing Link As the ball kept coming back towards Dean Henderson's goal, the more it became apparent that Gary Madine would have been suited perfectly, absolutely perfectly, to this match. Unfortunately, having been sent-off against Brentford four days earlier, the on-loan centre-forward was serving the first installment of a three game ban which will also rule him out of the fixtures against Bristol City and Preston North End. His presence in attack, and ability to hold the ball up despite being surrounded by defenders, would have bought United some valuable breathing space at times. Fortunately, others stepped into the breach with Sharp capping a selfless display by providing the assist for Basham.