A penalty save helps Leeds United maintain title charge with victory over Reading


Photo: Leeds United FC

Leeds United 1 : 0 Reading

Stuart Dallas scored the only goal and Bailey Peakcock-Farrell saved a late Marc McNulty penalty as Leeds United enhanced their promotion credentials with a 1-0 win over Reading on a cold night in West Yorkshire.

The game had added significance for the home side as it was also the seventh anniversary of the passing of former midfielder Gary Speed. Chants of ‘Gary, Gary, Gary, Gary Speed’ rung out around Elland Road and on the 11th minute the stadium rose to their feet and gave a rapturous applause in honour of the Welshman.

Leeds could have opened the scoring inside the first minute of the match when Pablo Hernandez, whom manager Marcelo Bielsa singled out before the game for his influence, crossed for Ezgjan Alioski but the Macedonian international headed just wide.

Bielsa’s men were comfortable for the majority of the first half. Top goal scorer Kemar Roofe was heavily involved in proceedings and played a critical role in the best move of the opening 45.

Adam Forshaw picked the ball up deep in midfield and drove at Reading before spraying a pass out to Roofe. He then played a neat one-two with Mateusz Klich before unleashing a curled effort which was well saved by Anssi Jaakkola in the Reading goal.

The visitors did have their moments, though. Peacock-Farrell, returning between the sticks after a recent injury, was almost caught out by a clever Leandro Bacuna free-kick from 30-yards out but managed to scramble back to flick the ball over the crossbar. Yakout Meite and Chris Gunter also had decent half chances but the Leeds defence shoot firm.

Hernandez’s influence over the game was obvious as the home side took every opportunity they could to work the ball out to his flank, the former Swansea City man often producing a good final ball only for his colleagues to squander their chances.

Leeds picked up in the second half where they left off in the first and again could have opened the scoring within the first few seconds of the restart. Substitute Samuel Saiz controlled an Alioski cross and his effort was deflected for a corner.

Minutes later Jaakkola produced a wonderful save to keep the game level as he denied Roofe who was looking dangerous. Roofe rose highest to meet a Saiz deep cross and the headed the ball back across goal only for Jaakkola to produce a fine fingertip save to send the ball off course.

Right on the hour mark the hosts got the goal their play merited.

Douglas sent in a low cross and Roofe had two bites at the cherry. Jaakkola and the desperate Reading defenders managed to keep him at bay only for the loose ball to fall to Dallas who lashed his shot into the net causing Elland Road to erupt.

Reading tried to assert themselves more as manager Paul Clement cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, begging his team to push forward. However, the Leeds press had the visitors flustered.

Jack Clarke, who was introduced at the break, caused the away side all minds of problems with his close control and direct approach. The 18-year-old made his senior debut in a 1-1 draw with Brentford in October and was impressing again for the Whites.

His creative spark was the antithesis of everything Reading offered, a trait that was magnified further after falling behind.

Royals boss Paul Clement sent on Joshua Sims and Marc McNulty in search of an equaliser but they rarely threatened.

If anything, it would be hosts who teased a second goal. Clarke sprinted away from the Reading midfield and drove at the two covering defenders. The young Englishman had Saiz in support but chose the solo route to no avail.

With Reading committing men forward in search of a late leveller, the home side found more space and should have scored more goals but it was not to be.

Reading almost prised a point away from the hosts after Douglas brought down Sims in the area and referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot.

McNulty stepped up to take the penalty and sent the ball low and to the goalkeeper’s right, but Peakcock-Farrell was equal to it and clawed it away. The Elland Road faithful celebrated just as passionately as they did when their side took the lead.

Reading can’t have too many complaints at the result as a point would have flattered them. Bielsa will be pleased if not a little frustrated at the poor finishing his side displayed.

Leeds: Peacock-Farrell, Dallas, Cooper, Phillips, Douglas, Klich, Forshaw, Baker, Hernandez, Alioski, Roofe.  Subs: Huffer, Roberts, Saiz, Harrison, Shackleton, Clarke, Halme.

Reading: Jaakkola, Gunter, Yiadom, Moore, Bacuna, Swift, Ilori, Meite, Rinomhota, Kelly, Loader.  Subs: Walker, O’Shea, McCleary, Aluko, Sims, Blackett, McNulty.



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