Leeds United draw a blank in opening home league game

Ben Pearson lunges in on Eunan O'Kane to earn the first of his two yellow cards for Preston at Leeds United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Ben Pearson lunges in on Eunan O'Kane to earn the first of his two yellow cards for Preston at Leeds United. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Leeds United were left frustrated in their first home game in the EFL Championship as they were held to a goalless draw by a Preston team down to 10 men for the last half-hour.

In front of a big home crowd the Whites were roared on, but were struggling until they had an extra man following the sending off of Ben Pearson for a second bookable offence.

After scoring seven goals in their first two matches United found themselves up against a team that closed them down well and opportunities were at a premium, but they did miss a number of chances with an extra man and could count themselves unlucky in the end.

But one effort on goal in the first hour told its story of how good a defensive job the visitors did.

They started brightly without creating clear opportunities, the closest to a goal coming when Paul Huntington’s clearance cannoned off Eunan O’Kane and had to be saved by visiting keeper Chris Maxwell.

Ezgjan Alioski showed good feet after being switched from his starting left wing position to the right, but he shot wide from the edge of the box.

Thomas Barkhuizen came close for Preston with a strike from 15 yards out after latching onto a loose pass by Alioski.

A better opportunity followed for the visitors when only a great block by Liam Cooper denied Alan Browne after Pontus Jansson had been robbed of the ball by Jordan Hugill.

Callum Robinson and Barkhuizen sent further shots over from distance and Preston had edged the first half.

They started the second half the better as well with Browne denied by home keeper Felix Wiedwald after getting a shot away in the box.

Barkhuizen sent a shot wide from 25 yards out while Tommy Spurr saw a shot deflected wide.

Left-back Greg Cunningham got forward to send a header wide from a corner and two minutes later had the ball in the net from a free-kick only to be given offside.

The game changed, however, on the hour when Pearson, who had earlier been booked for a two-footed lunge and had also been fortunate not to be carded on two other occasions, brought down Kalvin Phillips.

Another card was the result and he was walking down the tunnel. At the same time Leeds made two substitutions, bringing on midweek hat-trick hero Samuel Saiz and Ronaldo Vieira, and suddenly it was all United.

Chris Wood sent a near post header wide from a Cameron Borthwick-Jackson cross then Jansson poked the ball wide in a crowded goalmouth.

Wood then had the best chance of the game as he raced clear onto Pablo Hernandez’s pass only to see his shot well saved by Maxwell. Alioski looked well placed to tuck away the rebound only to slip at the crucial moment.

A dangerous cross by Borthwick-Jackson just evaded Wood and Saiz was the next to have a good opportunity only to send a weak header straight to Maxwell.

More pressure resulted in Jansson having a header cleared then substitute Stuart Dallas saw his far post effort saved before Hernandez latched onto the rebound and sent in a strong shot that was brilliantly kept out of the net by the Preston keeper.

Wood headed wide from a Saiz cross and put another effort off target from Alioski’s cross as the visitors somehow survived.

In injury-time, which should have been longer than five minutes with all the blatant time wasting going on, it was Preston who could have snatched all three points when Josh Harrop broke down the left to hit the crossbar with a powerful shot.

Leeds head coach Thomas Christiansen reckoned it was a fair result.

He said: “We were up against a team with passion as they showed when they went to 10 men.

“In the first half we didn’t pass the ball well enough. It was a little bit better in the second half.

“Preston put us under pressure in our build-up and especially in the first half we didn’t make the final pass.

“But we kept the goal to a zero and kept our first clean sheet.

“Four points from two games is good. My expectation was to take all three, but we take a point.

“We expected that game from Preston, but we didn’t manage the tempo and if you don’t play as fast as you should you don’t make the chances.

“We went all out for the result and they got a good break and hit the crossbar. The result was fair enough.”

Match facts

Leeds United 0

Preston North End 0

Saturday, August, 12, 2017

EFL Championship

Attendance: 32, 880.

Leeds: Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Borthwick-Jackson (Dallas 82), Roofe (Saiz 61), O’Kane, Phillips (Vieira 61), Hernandez, Alioski, Wood,

Preston: Maxwell, Fisher, Spurr, Huntington, Cunningham, Robinson, Pearson (sent-off 60), Johnson, Browne (Gallagher 89), Barkhuizen (Harrop 65), Hugill,

Referee: Scott Duncan