Work to do but entertaining Everton draw offers promising Leeds United signs against good barometer

There was very little between Leeds United and Everton in last season’s Premier League, nothing in fact from a points perspective.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 4:24 pm

Both clubs amassed 59 of them as Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites just edged out the Toffees for a ninth-placed finish on goal difference.

The fact that newly-promoted Leeds finished above Everton - a side who have been in the Premier League ever since it started - spoke volumes about the level of United’s achievement.

Quite how United fare in their second season back remains to be seen and difficult to predict but Saturday’s draw certainly offered encouragement against a side very much fancied to be in and around the top six.

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BACK IN BUSINESS: Leeds United looked a much more solid proposition in midfield with Kalvin Phillips, right, pictured closing in on Andros Townsend, back in the side. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Whether a draw was a ‘fair result’ in Saturday’s contest at Elland Road is open to debate. Probably, and the fact that Toffees boss Rafa Benitez was more than satisfied afterwards told you everything you needed to know.

Benitez saw his side lead twice and highlighted how his side had 17 attempts at goal - of which eight were on target - but the Toffees boss refused to label the outcome as two points dropped.

Leeds, after all, also mustered 17 attempts at goal but the fact that only four shots were on target was telling and rather indicative of the game itself.

In short, Leeds dominated on the ball - as 70 per cent of possession testifies - but the Toffees created by far the better chances and probably would have won with sharper finishing from Dominic Calvert-Lewin who was twice denied by good saves from Illan Meslier.

There are, of course, other factors to consider such as the manner in which Everton were handed the opportunity to take the lead via the penalty despatched by Calvert-Lewin.

Whites captain Liam Cooper was eventually deemed guilty of preventing Calvert-Lewin from latching on to a cross by pulling his shirt and there were some quizzical looks in the press box as the incident was replayed before VAR intervened.

Leeds looked to have got away with one in a big way.

Cooper said afterwards how both he and Calvert-Lewin had a hold of each other’s shirts - six of one and a half a dozen of the other almost - but the overriding feeling was that a penalty looked the right call.

Without that, Leeds could have been looking at a victory and United themselves were then denied shout shouts for a spot kick in the last attack of the game as Patrick Bamford was sent tumbling.

It means there are plenty of ifs, buts and maybes but generally there was plenty to enthuse about for Leeds against a side highly likely to kick on from last season’s tenth-placed finish under a class act boss in Benitez who has made a point of highlighting that Everton’s journey under him has only just started.

Leeds are three years into theirs under Marcelo Bielsa and the Whites not surprisingly looked a different proposition in midfield to the one seen at Old Trafford due to Kalvin Phillips being back.

Everton created too many chances for comfort but Leeds will have other options at centre back when injured duo Diego Llorente and Robin Koch return.

The Whites could also do with creating more clear cut chances than they did against the Toffees and looked a bit too reliant on the superb Raphinha but Rodrigo ought to help when back fit having been an unused substitute after suffering a slight muscular issue in midweek.

But whilst Leeds only have one point out of a possible six, Saturday’s display felt like a step in the right direction as part of a memorable afternoon as crowds finally returned to Elland Road in full.

Those supporters missed out big time last term as the Whites stormed to a ninth-placed finish upon their first season back in the top flight since 2003-04, a campaign that ended with relegation.

Even after last season’s superb efforts, safeguarding top flight status is clearly still this season’s first port of call.

That was also the case last season and Leeds proved some way better than that.

Whether the Whites can quite scale those heights remains to be seen but the weekend’s display certainly offered encouragement that Leeds ought to be capable of something similar again.

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Thank you Laura Collins