Elland Road, Leeds
Match Rating: 4
Elland Road is an iconic stadium I've been meaning to visit for years, only for something to put me off on each occasion. This year I decided to make it happen, taking advantage of cheaper ticket prices for a friendly match.
Elland Road is situated a couple of miles south west of the city centre, although football special buses are also available. My first sight of the stadium was from the brow of a hill, and a really quite impressive sight it was too in the valley below, particularly the imposing East Stand. Once at the stadium, a statue of Billy Bremner is located by the club shop outside the south-east corner of the stadium, whilst a statue of Don Review stands outside the East Stand. Once inside, the East Stand is two tiered, although only the lower tier was open today, with a row of corporate boxes between the two tiers. and it towers above and stands out from the remaining stands. The remaining stands look very similar, of identical height with the corners filled in - apart from the one where a large screen is placed. These three stands look very old fashioned and rather tired compared to the East Stand, and have supporting pillars towards the rear. The West and South stands are two tiered, whilst the North (Revie) stand, where the most passionate fans seem to congregate, is single tiered. All in all, it's a stadium that has some individuality, feels compact despite its large capacity, but just seems to lack any real 'wow' factor. A much reduced programme was produced today, 16 pages and was a typical edition for a friendly, containing the basic information and a fair amount to read.
It's difficult to know what to make of Leeds currently. After finishing 15th last season, there has certainly been plenty of activity at the club since Massimo Cellino took over the club earlier this year after winning his appeal after the Football League initially decided he did not comply with the fit and proper person requirement. He has installed a coach, David Hockaday, whose sole previous management experience was at non league Forest Green Rovers, and a large turnover of players saw top scorer Ross McCormack sold and a number of players from Italy arrive and previously first choice keeper Paddy Kenny banished from the squad, at least partly because his birthday is on 17th, a number Cellino considers unlucky. It will be interesting to see how Leeds do under these circumstances, one fears not particularly well. Dundee United had a solid season in the Scottish Premiership, finishing in fourth place and they also reached the final of the Scottish Cup. They certainly brought down a healthy and vocal contingent supporters for this game, making up 1,104 of the total attendance.
Fortunately the intermittent heavy drizzle ahead of kick off relented, to give very overcast but occasionally sunny conditions during the match. Leeds certainly started the match on the front foot and deservedly took the lead with just three minutes on the clock. Michael Tonge took possession of the ball close to the right corner flag before drilling a low cross deep inside the six yard box and Steve Morison had the simple task of tapping into the net at the far post from a couple of yards. How Leeds didn't extend their lead before half time was baffling, as they were in complete control having chance after chance, and saw a powerful shot by Tomasso Bianchi come off the crossbar. They certainly impressed though, playing really good passing football and showing plenty of creativity, which apparently was in stark contrast to the football played last season under Brian McDermott.
Into the second half and Leeds' domination subsided somewhat, although still the visitors posed next to no threat whatsoever. Their one clear chance came when their former player, Noel Hunt, played a blind back pass which was intercepted by Ryan Dower, but his eventual shot was smothered away by Silvestri. Leeds finally doubled their lead four minutes from time with a very controversial goal. Dundee United's Jaroslaw Fojut was clattered by Matt Smith in the air, with the referee playing advantage, even the ball just rolled straight to Dominic Poleon, who strode towards goal, took the ball around the keeper and eventually poked the ball into the empty net. 2-0 was how it finished, and although the scoreline should really have been more emphatic, there was plenty about Leeds' play to be encouraged about with their attacking, passing style of play - although it remains to be seen if they will be allowed to play in such a way in the rough and tumble of the Championship. Dundee United did not look too bad in midfield, but were completely impotent in the final third.