Irrespective of form and venue, a clash between Leeds United and Brentford promises drama. Pride, history and strife take centre stage. The animosity exceeds a local derby. On Wednesday, Arsenal loanee Eddie Nkietah on only his maiden Championship appearance, off the bench settled the meeting. It showed courage, hunger and promise.
Brentford may be striving so far this season yet they came with a clear blueprint to frustrate Leeds at Elland Road. It’s been a slow start, with the Bees picking up just four points from an available nine in their first three league games. Just as they say about exam not being the true test of knowledge, in Brentford’s case points garnered may not reflect the club’s displays.
Against Birmingham City, they were desperately unlucky to lose, but in victory at Middlesbrough, they were perhaps slightly fortunate. A home draw with Hull over the weekend will have disappointed manager Thomas Frank. A strong result in West Yorkshire could ignite their campaign.
After all, the Bees failed to sting to victory only once in the last three matches. They outclassed Marco Bielsa’s men in February and picked a point on their recent travel. Overall, Brentford lost only two of their last 12 league games against Leeds (W5 D5 L2), flaunting a superior head-to-head. It would take something of a spark of special to light up.
An often sight under Bielsa, Leeds United suffocated play, dominating possession. They had 70% of the ball, patiently mounting attacks from the back with their metronymic 82% accurate passing. Key amongst this was Adam Forshaw, his 94% accuracy from 56 passes. A resolute Brentford didn’t give in.
The possession and nice exchanges amounted to nothing, lacking that final product that finds itself nestling comfortably into the back of the net. There were moments during the first half, it looked to be coming, with Patrick Bamford twice coming close to opening the lead.
The game followed the same pattern for Leeds, in control of possession but failed to find a killer blow until Nketiah was summoned from the bench in the 77th minutes. Four minutes after coming on, he had the simplest task of tapping into an empty net after good work from fellow substitute Helder Costa down the wing.
The strike was priceless. Leeds leapfrogged Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday to regain top spot on goal difference with 10 points. More importantly, it was Bielsa’s first win in five matches at Elland Road. For 20-year-old Nketiah, it was his third for the club after goal for the Under-23s on Monday and the opener in the 3-0 victory over Salford City in the Carabao Cup First Round.
“Nketiah is a player who can make a big impact,” Bielsa said after the match. “It says everything when a striker scores with so little time on the pitch. We deserved to win.”
Nkietah averages a goal in less than 50 minutes. This cutting edge in the final third will be crucial for Leeds’ promotion chase. There’s already the prospect of a double attack with Bamford. As long as the goals continue to roll, the faithful won’t care that much.
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby