A late Chris Martin goal punished Leeds United and secured Derby County a valuable 1-1 draw at Elland Road.
Leeds dominated for large parts at Elland Road, led through Max Lowe’s own-goal and saw Mateusz Klich miss a penalty. However, Martin punished Marcelo Bielsa’s side in injury time at the end of the second-half as more drama unfolded between the two in West Yorkshire.
Last season, this fixture brought us ‘Spygate’ and perhaps the most thrilling play-off semi-final of all time, with the week’s build up dominated by both and Derby fuelling things on Friday evening with a reflective montage.
Fun was poked at that from the Leeds United fanbase, but Liam Cooper admitted in his pre-match programme notes it was adding to the Whites’ motivation.
“We have a lot of motivation following the pain of the play-off semi-final defeat against Derby last season, and we will be doing all we can to come away with the three points,” the Leeds skipper wrote.
And, it was the home support responding to that. Derby passes were greeted by boos, as Phillip Cocu’s side tried to play out from the back.
That tactic caused problems from the off, with Pablo Hernandez and Jack Harrison both wasting good opportunities after the Rams played themselves into trouble.
Leeds probed, winning a succession of corners, before a free-kick from Kalvin Phillips caused mayhem in the area and had Bielsa’s side the breakthrough.
A lovely delivery from the left caused a moment of pinball, which resulted in Lowe turning the ball into his own net after Patrick Bamford and Stuart Dallas both had efforts.
If you thought that might’ve sparked Derby into life, you’d be wrong. Leeds continued to attack wave after wave, with Dallas forcing Kelle Roos to tip over, before the right-back’s goal-bound effort was intercepted by Richard Keogh.
Keogh was battling with Bamford for much of the half, which seemed to bring out the best in the Leeds No.9.
However, goals continued to evade Bamford throughout the half, with the 26-year-old lifting an effort over Roos’ bar and firing wide from range as half-time approached.
At the other end of the field, Derby’s lone striker, Jack Marriott, was looking a frustrated figure, as Leeds nullified his threat and continued pushing until the break.
It was much of the same as the second-half kicked-off, with Bamford going close to stretching the lead; his effort hitting the post after good work from Dallas on the right.
The full-back – constantly involved in attack – fired over and Bamford then shot into the arms of Roos.
Both Bielsa and Cocu turned to their bench around the hour, with Helder Costa on for Leeds and Jamie Paterson for Derby.
Then, a tireless Bamford then presented Leeds with a golden opportunity to put the game beyond reach on 70 minutes.
His trickery won Leeds a penalty, which Mateusz Klich, casual as you’d like, pulled wide of the post after sending Roos the wrong way.
That proved to be one of Bamford’s last acts as he was replaced by Eddie Nketiah heading into the final 10 minutes, with the Arsenal loanee given the task of facing Keogh.
Derby pressed, with Chris Martin and Jason Knight introduced, winning a flurry of set-pieces. Matt Clarke heading one harmlessly wide.
Then, breakthrough for the Rams.
Lowe, the scorer of an unfortunate own-goal, broke down the right, with his square ball eventually working its way to Martin, who fired beyond Kiko Casilla in stoppage time.
The Elland Road crowd would try to inspire a winner for Leeds, but it never came.
A deserved point for Derby, no. But Leeds punished for more failings in-front of goal in the latest episode between these two clubs.
FULL-TIME: Leeds United 1-1 Derby County.