Report: Leeds United 0 Ipswich Town 1 – Blues back to their belligerent best as Smith scores winner
Ipswich Town got back to their belligerent best and secured a gritty 1-0 win at Leeds United tonight, courtesy of Tommy Smith’s first half header.
Having conceding eight goals in two games, Mick McCarthy’s men showed all their qualities of last season – spirit, organisation and hard work – to get their flying start to the season back on track, securing their first victory at Elland Road in a decade.
After soaked up some early pressure, Ipswich broke the deadlock through Smith’s 32nd minute header following a badly-defended corner.
The visitors were on the front foot for much of the second half, then survived strong home penalty appeals at the death – replays showing the referee was correct in booking Sam Byram for a dive.
Blues keeper Dean Gerken barely had a save of note to make throughout. It was only the second clean sheet in 18 matches.
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McCarthy insisted that now was not the time for knee-jerk reactions, following last Friday’s 5-1 defeat at Reading and made just two changes to his starting line-up as a result.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaced the injured Freddie Sears (tight hamstring) on the right of midfield, while striker Daryl Murphy – fully fit again following calf problems – replaced Brett Pitman up front.
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The first half panned out exactly how the Blues boss would have imagined it in his mind when making preparations.
Leeds started brightly, knocked the ball around crisply, but Town – unlike four days earlier – were supremely organised from front to back.
Luke Chambers, who had started the campaign below-par, looked very much up for the occasion after leading a lengthy pre-match chat in the huddle. He produced a fine recovery challenge on Charlie Taylor in the box after the Yorkshire hosts broke rapidly.
There were then strong shouts of ‘handball’ from the vocal and partisan home crowd when Wood’s cross struck Smith in the area, but, tellingly, the Leeds players were less vociferous in their appeals and the referee emphatically waved play on.
Having conceded twice in the opening quarter of an hour of their previous two outings, Ipswich will have been relieved to have successfully negotiated that opening period.
They felt even better after breaking the deadlock from a set-piece just after the half hour mark. Keeper Marco Silvestri completely missed his attempted punch following Ryan Fraser’s corner, defender Liam Cooper sliced the ball back across his own goal at the far post under pressure from Christophe Berra and Smith was there to expertly squeeze a header inside the post.
The atmosphere inside Elland Road immediately changed. The home fans, who had been roaring their team on, fell quiet and then, slowly but surely, the moans and groans began.
Unlike at Reading, the Blues kept their shape brilliantly. Leeds finished the half with plenty of possession, but time and again they passed sideways across the pitch and then back again, unable to find a way through two disciplined banks of four.
Praise also has to go to Murphy. The front man may not have found his shooting boots again following his 27-goal exploits of last season, but the Blues certainly miss his physical presence when he’s out of the team.
The Irishman won several headers back in his own box defending corners and, at the other end, gave the visitors a long ball outlet when the back four needed a breather. It massively reduced the threat of rapid counter-attacks.
Rather than sit back, Town tried to get on the front foot after the restart and created a good chance to score a killer second in the 49th minute.
Jonas Knudsen started the move with a crunching tackle in his own half and then sprinted forwards to exchange passes with Fraser. The cross was only half-cleared as far as Maitland-Niles, but his volley from 12 yards out lacked conviction and was easily held by Silvestri.
Moments later, Fraser skipped his way past several players into the box and, after refusing to go to ground, forced Silvetsri to push an angled shot around the post.
And then, just before the hour mark, David McGoldrick curled an effort just past the post from the edge of the box after some sloppy midfield play by the home team.
Fraser hadn’t stopped running for Town and, even after running off some cramp, he still managed to keep taking on his marker and ensure Leeds remained pinned back in their own half.
Town’s flying Scot was subbed, due to sheer exhaustion in the 76th minute and was replaced by Jonathan Parr. Cole Skuse, having just suffered a knock, was replaced by Giles Coke.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Leeds finally found some urgency. It required a series of fine defensive headers as Town’s box was bombarded with crosses.
The big talking point came in the 86th minute when Leeds have huge penalty appeals turned away. Sub Byram burst onto a through ball, appeared to be impeded in the box by Knudsen’s out-stretched arm but, nevertheless, went down dramatically. Town players quickly surrounded Byram to berate him for a perceived dive and referee James Adcock reacted by booking the Leeds man.
LEEDS UTD (4-4-2): Silvestri; Berardi, Bamba (cpt), Cooper, Taylor; Adeyemi (Mowatt 69), Murphy, Cook, Dallas (Byram 59); Wood, Antenucci.
Unused subs: Turnbull, Bellusci, Wootton, Doukara, Phillips.
Booked: Bamba (8), Cook (72)
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Maitland-Niles (Pitman 84), Skuse (Coke 76), Douglas, Fraser (Parr 76); McGoldrick, Murphy.
Unused subs: Bialkowski, Malarczyk, Tabb, Toure.
Booked: Parr (77)
Attendance: 21,312 (520 away)
Referee: James Adcock