Burnley draw further highlights task facing Leeds United in second season back
Leeds United were already on six points after three games played of their first season back in the Premier League.
This time around, they’ve had to make do with two. In that sense, the Whites are already playing catch up.
But catch up compared to a remarkable season upon the club’s Premier League return and Sunday’s draw at Burnley only re-emphasised the task facing Leeds in their second season back.
The first port of call has to be staying in the division and Sunday’s blood-and-thunder clash against a side who are fourth favourites to go down showed just how hard that would be.
Leeds always looked to be facing a tall order to immediately hit lift off when it came to their second season back in the country’s top flight.
Manchester United away followed by a home clash against an Everton side now managed by Rafa Benitez hardly looked like the easiest set of opening games.
The Whites were blitzed 5-1 in the season opener at Old Trafford and twice found themselves trailing against Everton but Marcelo Bielsa’s side produced a strong response and pleasing display in a 2-2 draw.
Time will tell how the Toffees fare under Benitez but it might well be that Leeds faced two sides destined to finish in the top six in their first two games.
That looks very unlikely for Burnley who are the general fourth favourites to be relegated behind Norwich City, Crystal Palace and Watford.
As such, Sunday’s clash at Turf Moor looked like a decent opportunity for Leeds to pick up their first win of the new season and, to that degree, it already felt like a pretty big game.
But they are all big in the Premier League and Leeds needed an 86th-minute strike from Patrick Bamford to avoid defeat and leave with a point.
Whether the Whites deserved any more or less is open to debate but Bielsa’s side never got going like they truly can and the general consensus was that a draw was a fair result.
Much of the fact that Leeds could never really hit their true stride is down to Burnley’s attempts to prevent United’s flow which was pretty successful.
That said, the Whites squandered two particularly good opportunities in the first half.
Leeds looked destined to go in front when players stormed forward from a flowing counter started by brilliant defending from Stuart Dallas at left-back.
Rodrigo or Bamford both could have pulled the trigger but Rodrigo instead laid on an opportunity for Raphinha who could only fire wide.
It was a similar scenario a few moments later when Kalvin Phillips led another counter and played in Bamford whose heavy touch meant the opening was gone.
That was Bielsa’s Leeds at their best but without the finish but those moments were otherwise few and far between aside from the move for the equaliser, inspired by brilliance from Raphinha and then Jamie Shackleton.
Burnley naturally looked to cause problems by bombing high balls into the box and Leeds coped fairly well until conceding after failing to clear a 61st-minute corner, albeit a deflection off Bamford from another corner in the first-half also hit the post.
Those incidents aside, United held pretty firm, although the Clarets also went close with a few decent attempts from the edge of the box.
But whilst Leeds would have left with a victory upon keeping a clean sheet, there were too few clear-cut chances for comfort, despite 12 attempts at goal, the same amount of Burnley.
This, after all, is a side that can often muster double that number, even against the best teams in the division.
There are mitigating factors as Leeds were missing the influence of Mateusz Klich in the middle of the park and also Dallas who had to shift to left-back due to Klich and Junior Firpo both being ruled out due to coronavirus.
Leeds still need much more from record signing Rodrigo who failed to have much of an impact in the No 10 role whilst Jack Harrison had a rare, quiet day on the left.
It’s not difficult to think that Leeds could do with boosting their attacking options before Tuesday’s 11pm transfer deadline.
That, though, judging by what Bielsa has said, seems unlikely and United’s head coach says he is happy to work with what he has got.
The Argentine certainly worked the oracle last season but Sunday showed that it will be just as hard if not harder in the second season back.
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Thank you Laura Collins