AFTER witnessing an epic EFL Cup tie at Elland Road, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Tuesday night’s thrilling victory on penalties against Norwich City.
Ronaldo Vieira is back with a bang
It is very hard to nominate a man-of-the-match with goalkeeper Marco Silvestri the undoubted hero in the penalty shootout, his three saves ultimately the deciding factor in putting Leeds into the quarter-finals.
Encouragingly, Gaetano Berardi also had a very solid game on his first appearance since picking up a hamstring injury on the opening day of the season at QPR while, as ever, Kyle Bartley was a rock at centre-back. From the bench, Chris Wood and Hadi Sacko also made a big impression when brought on. But Vieira had an outstanding game in centre midfield and the 19-year-old has made quite an impression upon his recent return to the team, with the teenager also playing very well in Saturday’s 1-0 Championship win at Wolves - his first start since the 1-0 success at home to Blackburn Rovers in the EFL Cup third round on September 20.
Leeds are blessed with an abundance of talent in the central midfield area and captain Liam Bridcutt and Eunan O’Kane remain the first-choice pairing in that department when available and fit. But Vieira continues to blossom and the youngster is clearly only going to improve further given that he has still amazingly only made 11 first-team appearances. Vieira showed pace, steel, grit, guile and determination throughout on Tuesday and even filled in admirably at right-back when Lewie Coyle went off injured, showing versatility that will stand him in excellent stead for his long-term future. Assuming Pablo Hernandez comes back into the team as No 10 after missing the Wolves game with a dead leg, it would be no surprise if Vieira is picked ahead of Kalvin Phillips for Saturday’s home game with Burton with Bridcutt still injured.
Souleymane Doukara still has plenty to offer at Leeds
Doukara has his doubters and knockers but the French-Senegalese forward was another ‘fringe’ player to excel and the 25-year-old rightfully received generous applause when subbed for Kalvin Phillips with nine minutes left.
Doukara is inconsistent but he was a thorn in Norwich’s side throughout, showing bundles of energy and enthusiasm and also setting up Marcus Antonsson’s 43rd-minute equaliser. He also laid on an open goal on a plate for Alex Mowatt who somehow spurned the opportunity with his weaker right foot though Mowatt at least had the sense of humour to mock his miss on social media afterwards.
Doukara, meanwhile, was making only his second start of the season after also lining up in the EFL Cup win at Luton Town and his first meaningful appearance for Leeds since coming on as a 67th-minute substitute for Antonsson in the 1-0 league loss at home to Huddersfield Town on September 10 (Doukara also came on as an 89th-minute sub in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Wolves).
United are clearly very short of options in the striking department after failing to bring in a new addition on transfer deadline day and displays like Tuesday’s from Doukara are just what the doctor ordered for Leeds and head coach Garry Monk. If the 25-year-old can repeat the dose and add more consistency to his game then plenty of other opportunities for him should be forthcoming.
Elland Road is rocking
Garry Monk has repeatedly talked about making Leeds United’s home a fortress since becoming head coach in the summer and that is exactly the way Elland Road is heading.
Leeds have now not lost at home in six games - not since the visit of Huddersfield, who were top at the time and bagged a 1-0 victory at the beginning of September. Since then, United have beaten Blackburn twice - once in the league and once in the EFL Cup - before seeing off Ipswich and Barnsley in the league and then drawing 1-1 with Wigan in a game in which they really ought to have made it four home league wins in a row and five in league and cup.
The ground was buzzing on Tuesday with an attendance of 22,222 and the club should be applauded for reducing ticket prices which led to a brilliant atmosphere, even with the South Stand being shut. Leeds United’s home is becoming everything Monk hoped it would be - noisy, supportive and intimidating for the opposition and United’s fans stuck with their team throughout, even when Norwich looked to be cruising to victory leading 2-1 in extra-time against 10 men. The atmosphere for the penalty shoot-out, in front of a packed Kop, will live long in the memory.
Burton Albion are next up at Elland Road on Saturday in a game in which Leeds should have every chance of enhancing their impressive recent home run further.
Newcastle United then visit Elland Road on Sunday, November 20 and the atmosphere for that game in particular should be an absolute cracker.
A feelgood factor is definitely sweeping over Leeds who are just three points off the play-offs and could be even closer to the top six come Saturday tea-time.
The odds are high on United landing a big fish in the quarter-finals
Norwich presented United’s sternest test in this season’s EFL Cup run by some margin and Leeds eventually passed the test with flying colours.
It’s now impossible for Leeds to draw anything other than a juicy assignment in the quarter-finals. After all, the Whites are now one of just two Championship clubs left in the competition along with Newcastle United and even a quarter-final against the thriving Magpies would be a juicy proposition with the Toon Army quite clearly on their way back to the Premier under Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool, Arsenal and Hull City are also already through and they will be joined by the winners of Wednesday night’s ties between Manchester United and Manchester City, West Ham United and Chelsea, and Southampton and Sunderland.
The draw will take place after the conclusion of the Manchester derby with the quarter-finals staged on either Tuesday, November 29 or Wednesday, November 30. A home tie in particular would give Leeds a serious chance of making an exciting two-legged semi-final and Hull at home perhaps - or struggling Sunderland if they get through - could offer the best chance of all of going through.