This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Rewind’ series, this content strand is where we rewind back to a particular moment at a club. In this instance, during the forced postponement of games due to the coronavirus outbreak, we take a look back on a fixture and deliver a reflective match report…
There’s nothing quite like the opening day of the football season and back in August, Leeds United’s loyal supporters flooded to Ashton Gate to see what a second campaign under Marcelo Bielsa would bring.
Leeds treated a strong following to a blistering display to win 3-1, sending a message out to the rest of the Championship; they had missed out on automatic promotion the season before and crashed out of the play-offs in embarrassing circumstances, but they were back for more and quickly put Bristol City in their place.
36 games later and Leeds are still motoring along trying to right the wrongs of last season. They are on a five-game winning streak and sit top of the Championship table, a point clear of West Bromwich Albion and seven ahead of third placed Fulham.
When the season resumes, whether that be April 30th or a later date, Bielsa’s side have nine games to finish the job; a job they restarted at Ashton Gate back on August 4th.
A sold-out away end of 2,995 was, of course, backing Leeds. There was expectancy that their side would once again challenge for the top-two, but many were wary how deflating the end to the previous campaign had been. Additionally, Pontus Jansson had left for Brentford and Kemar Roofe was on his way out of the club, with a move to Anderlecht in the pipeline.
Yet, Leeds settled the nerves quickly despite coming up against a promotion-hopeful in Bristol City.
Ben White slotted seamlessly into the defence alongside Liam Cooper, whilst Kiko Casilla’s litter of errors towards the end of the 2018/19 campaign didn’t stop the Spaniard playing with the risk Bielsa loves to see his goalkeeper take.
Patrick Bamford – tasked with spearheading Leeds’ promotion push – had a few efforts on Dan Bentley’s goal, but the No.9 was unable to properly test the Robins’ goalkeeper. Yet, Leeds were coming at Bristol City with consistent waves of attacking play down the left, which eventually forced the opening goal on 27 minutes.
Barry Douglas and Jack Harrison overloaded on the left, with their work helping Adam Forshaw find space inside. The midfielder slipped a ball to Pablo Hernandez, who, with a little luck, swivelled and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed shot into Bentley’s top corner.
🔓 Deadlock = broken.
🔥 Different season, same Pablo Hernandez! An excellent finish from the Spaniard!
It’s Bristol City 0-1 Leeds.
— Football League World (@FLeagueWorld) August 4, 2019
Josh Brownhill looked to respond for the Robins, but Casilla saved well after a shaky moment under a cross, but the biggest threat was coming at the other end, as Leeds looked to put Lee Johnson’s side to the sword.
Forshaw was inches away from his first Leeds goal as he was narrowly off-target, before Harrison failed to put the midfielder into a golden position on the stroke of half-time.
More of the same followed at the start of the second-half and Leeds’ bombardment eventually brought a second goal on 57 minutes; Hernandez had been tormenting the Robins throughout the game and even produced a double-nutmeg in the first-half, and when Kalvin Phillips fed the Spaniard into the right channel, it spelt trouble for Johnson’s side.
Hernandez skipped around a would-be defender before lifting a cross onto the head of Bamford, with the Leeds striker having the simplest of tasks to direct his effort beyond Bentley.
Leeds playing on the front-foot and with this type of class is too much for a lot of the Championship, with Johnson’s side bailing water as the game ticked beyond the hour.
A third goal was just around the corner, though, with Harrison converting on the rebound after a goal-bound Mateusz Klich effort had been blocked.
Andi Weimann hit back seven minutes later to give Ashton Gate some hope, beating Casilla at his near post – an error from the Spaniard that Leeds would witness a lot more of at the start of 2020.
Johnson’s side would rally, but Leeds weren’t in the mood to surrender their lead and steadied themselves to secure the points with a 3-1 victory on the road; cobwebs from the 2018/19 season were blown off, with almost 3,000 fans heading back to Yorkshire brimming with confidence that this was their year.
And, it still might be their year. They’ve overcome a tough start to 2020 to put themselves nine games away from a Premier League return when the season eventually resumes and starting in a similar fashion to August will be the perfect tonic.
A second season under Bielsa has been a joy to watch, but it needs a happier ending to really feed the expectation that’s been growing at Elland Road since the summer.