City have lots of possession but fail to make it count against Leeds. Harry Drew tells the story.
Back-to-back wins against Wolves and Reading had undoubtedly given City’s players a renewed sense of confidence going into the much-anticipated derby with Leeds. Although we had to grind out those two results, City showed a ruthless streak as late goals secured six points in a matter of days. A victory at the KC on Saturday afternoon would have kept the momentum going nicely, yet fans were forced to endure another frustrating afternoon as City failed to close out a one-goal lead.
Jake Livermore returned to the side having been rested at Reading, while there was a welcome start for Chuba Akpom, who lined-up alongside top scorer Abel Hernandez. Robert Snodgrass started against his former club in a 4-4-2 formation.
City did not hesitate to put pressure on the away side early on, creating two half-chances in the opening ten minutes. Chuba Akpom cut in from the left and forced a save out of Marco Silvestri, while Tom Huddlestone saw his long-range effort fly wide of the post moments later. Leeds failed to launch an attack until the 15th minute, but unfortunately for City, this resulted in a goal. Charlie Taylor crossed from the left and Chris Wood, unmarked, volleyed home from little more than six yards out.
To their credit City responded quickly. Shaun Maloney passed to Akpom on the left who once again cut inside to shoot on his favoured right foot, but Silvestri was alert and managed to tip the ball over the crossbar. Curtis Davies glanced a header wide from a corner and Harry Maguire saw an ambitious effort fizz off target as City continued to search for an equaliser.
Just when it looked like Leeds were going into the break with an unlikely lead, City struck. Akpom patiently held the ball up on the edge of the area before playing in Snodgrass, who squared the ball for Hernandez to tap in from close range. There was an air of relief around the KC, but City were not done yet. Deep into added time Akpom received the ball from Hernandez 25 yards from goal; the Englishman teed up Huddlestone who found the bottom corner with a fine strike. The teams left the pitch with the score at 2-1 and in truth, it was nothing more than City deserved.
Although the Tigers started the second period strongly, it was Leeds who were presented with the opportunity to level the score when Odubajo clumsily brought down Taylor in the box. Chris Wood stepped up and looked to place the ball in the corner, but McGregor produced an excellent save to deny the New Zealander his second goal of the match.
The pace of Chuba Akpom was causing the Leeds defence problems all afternoon, and on the hour mark he again put it to good use before setting up Snodgrass, whose shot was not far off target. For 20 minutes the game was scrappy and disjointed, but City seemed content with limiting Leeds to very few chances.
There was a warning shot on 86 minutes when McGregor had to make a save from a Chris Wood header following a Stuart Dallas free-kick. City were perhaps guilty of sitting back too much, and Leeds duly punished Steve Bruce’s side with only two minutes remaining. Good work from Jordan Botaka on the right allowed him to find Dallas in space on the edge of the area, and the winger found the back of the net with a smart finish.
Sam Clucas had a half-chance to win all three points for City at the death, but his near-post shot was saved comfortably by Silvestri. The game finished 2-2 as the Tigers yet again dropped points in a home fixture which they thoroughly dominated. Ultimately, games like these are the reason why automatic promotion is now out of reach. With the play-offs now mathematically guaranteed, City will look to rebuild some momentum for what will be a fiercely contested battle for promotion.
Harry Drew @hdrew95