Leeds United 1 Nottingham Forest 1 - Graham Smyth's verdict: Familiar feeling as wasteful Whites left frustrated by Forest

Fresh optimism swirled around Elland Road before the first home game of the season, but it was familiar frustration that hung in the air by full-time.
Leeds United held by Nottingham Forest at Elland Road.Leeds United held by Nottingham Forest at Elland Road.
Leeds United held by Nottingham Forest at Elland Road.

In the lead up to the game Marcelo Bielsa said he wanted to link the feeling of playing at Elland Road with the future, not the past.

Yet when his Leeds United side comprehensively dominated visitors Nottingham Forest in a 1-1 draw, it was a reminder of the recent past and the struggles they had last season with converting chances.

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The two goals scored in Saturday's draw quite neatly summed up the two sides' performances.

One was graceful, intricate and beautiful to behold, the other was scrappy and ugly.

Regardless of how they were scored, they held the same value.

And no matter how much prettier and more fluent Leeds were on the ball, they left the pitch with a point, just like Forest.

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Quite how the sides left the pitch goalless at half-time is almost impossible to explain, such was Leeds' superiority.

When they took the lead through Pablo Hernandez 15 minutes into the second half, few watching at home on tv would have put money on anything other than a Leeds win.

Those watching from inside Elland Road have seen what followed before, however.

Forest, heartened by a rare chance they created from a corner, won another and created havoc in the box, allowing Lewis Grabban to score.

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The chances that had previously been flowing for Leeds dried up when it mattered most, Forest standing firm despite coming under late pressure and celebrating their first point of the season.

Leeds will rue the moments in the first half when they had Forest right where they wanted them but couldn't take advantage.

They were a goal away from the perfect first half.

By smothering Forest and pinning them into their own half, they made it as lopsided a 0-0 half-time scoreline as you're likely to see.

The home side's intent was evident from the first whistle, even if it took them five minutes to get enough precision into their work to create.

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Jack Harrison, a thorn in Forest's right hand side throughout, found Adam Forshaw and he went down in the box in the first of four unsuccessful penalty shouts.

When he didn't have the ball, Kalvin Phillips was sticking like glue to Tiago Silva and simply not allowing him into the game.

When the ball came his way, Phillips was excellent and it was his long-range effort that brought the first save of the afternoon from a nervous-looking Arijanet Muric.

Raking diagonal balls out of defence allowed wingers Pablo Hernandez and Harrison to isolate and tease the Forest full-backs, the former leaving Jack Robinson sprawling in his wake with a sumptious touch over the defender's head, Forest clearing the cross.

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That's something Forest did well, getting first to the multitude of crosses and corners, nipping in ahead of attackers to clear their lines.

Back came the ball, however, over and over again. There was just no let up, a white blanket covering any attempt at a counter attack.

They looked a bewildered bunch, unable to even play quickly when awarded free-kicks in their own half, allowing Leeds to get set up and then wasting the set-piece with a hopeful punt forward.

Leeds varied their attack, using Patrick Bamford's clever runs to knock balls down the middle and over the top, which very nearly brought the opener, the striker's first touch taking him too near Muric who made an important stop at his near post.

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The only moment of real worry in that first 45 minutes was the sight of the referee dipping into his pocket after Phillips had left Silva prone with a late challenge.

The tackle, which brought a yellow card, wasn't impressive, but the way in which Phillips adapted his approach was, the midfielder taking no chances in challenges and still managing to mark Silva out of the game.

With their midfield in shackles, Forest dragged Grabban deeper and deeper to try and pick up the ball and get them moving, yet it removed him from the attack and left them little in the way of final third options.

It wasn't until the 51st minute that Forest mustered a shot on goal, yet Albert Adomah's hopelessly wayward effort only seemed to annoy Leeds, who doubled their efforts and began hammering at the door.

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Bamford, a handful for his markers for the second game running, was denied by the crossbar from a deflected Harrison cross and then ran onto one of those balls over the top, lobbing the stranded Muric only to see the ball bounce wide of the open net.

As frustrated as they must have been, Leeds remained patient, stuck to the plan and their reward was a goal.

Mateusz Klich's deft touch released Hernandez and the Spaniard raced through the middle, embodying coolness to place the ball beyond Muric.

The floodgates had surely opened and Leeds were set to romp home to another comfortable lead.

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When the ball landed at the left foot of Bamford immediately after the opening goal, all of Elland Road saw the game being taken away from Forest, only for his 12-yard blast to fall wide.

Klich, Leeds' ever-present 2018/19 midfielder, began to look a little laboured in his running, but it was Forest who made a change.

It made a difference, too, Sammy Ameobi replacing Admoah and having an almost instant impact, driving the men in red down the pitch, shrugging off challenges to win a corner.

That one was headed over by an unmarked Michael Dawson.

The next one brought Forest level.

Leeds failed to deal with the delivery, an old fashioned goalmouth scramble ensued and there was Grabban to get the final touch on an ugly goal.

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Marcelo Bielsa had been readying Jamie Shackleton in the lead up to the equaliser, but it was Helder Costa who came on for the final 10 minutes, in place of Klich.

Costa threatened with his pace and trickery and Leeds went in search of a winner, while Forest formed a red wall.

Only an off-target Liam Cooper header from a corner briefly threatened to snatch the points, despite four minutes added on and a hint of a shove in Costa's back inside the area.

Referee Jones' final whistle attracted a swarm of Leeds players, remonstrating over his interpretation of that challenge on Costa, but as Bielsa would later point out - Jones was not the reason Leeds didn't win this game.