Leeds 3 Cardiff 3 – Five things we learned as Marcelo Bielsa’s side throw away three-goal lead to miss out on return to top of the Championship

Cardiff City fought from three goals down to secure a brilliant 3-3 draw against Leeds United on Saturday as the Whites threw away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Cardiff City at Elland Road.

The homs side played some tremendous football for the opening hour of the contest, carving Cardiff to pieces and looking well on course for an eighth consecutive victory after Helder Costa’s goal and Patrick Bamford’s brace.

However, Lee Tomlin’s looping effort on the hour gave the Bluebirds hope, before Sean Morrison added their second, only to then be sent off for a late tackle. Despite their man disadvantage, Cardiff staged a grandstand finish as Robert Glatzel guided in Tomlin’s flick to secure a point that seemed near impossible. 

The result leaves Leeds second in the Championship table, two points adrift of West Brom, but 10 ahead of the chasing pack, while Neil Harris’ side drop three places to 12th.

Here are five talking points from Elland Road:

Complacency could derail Leeds’ promotion hopes

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For the 18 months, Leeds have been fighting for promotion, and rightly, they are considered to be one of the best sides outside the Premier League. However, a sense of complacency has been the Achilles heel for Leeds’ in recent seasons, allowing teams to get back into matches when having a clear lead. This includes last season’s devastating 4-2 home defeat to Frank Lampard’s Derby City in the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-final at Elland Road, despite taking a 2-0 lead in the game.

On Saturday, for 60 minutes, they proved why they are one of the most feared sides in the divisions and favourites to be promoted, tearing Cardiff to pieces for the opening 45 minutes at Elland Road and starting the second-half in a similar mood. However, after Bamford tucked a penalty away on 52 minutes, complacency began to sneak into their game, and it only took an error from Kiko Casilla and a looping finish from Tomlin to turn the tide. Leeds couldn’t get their momentum back heading into the final 10 minutes and Cardiff punished them through Glatzel’s late equaliser.

Neil Harris admitted post-match that Leeds were the better side, and there wouldn’t have been a single person leaving Elland Road on Saturday arguing that point. In fact, they are better than most of the division, but fateful complacent periods like this could turn out to be the biggest hurdle for them to overcome in the promotion race this season.

Lee Tomlin shows class is permanent

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Although questioned by Bluebirds fans at time this season, Tomlin, 30, demonstrated his undoubted quality in the pulsating draw at Elland Road on Saturday and was instrumental in securing a draw for the away side, scoring one superbly taken goal and brilliantly assisted Robert Glatzel for the equaliser in the 88th minute to seal a point for Neil Harris’ side.

Following the game, Glatzel has paid tribute to Tomlin for the astonishing assist “Tommo is an unbelievable player. He always has these tricks and he’s always ready to do something special, so it’s good to have him in the team.”

Despite loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Peterborough United in recent seasons, Tomlin showed he can be a key player for Harris’ side as they aim to bounce straight to the Premier League following their relegation last term. If he can maintain this type of form heading into the festive period, Cardiff City will be a far more dangerous proposition in this key period of the Championship season.

Patrick Bamford shows why he should be Leeds first choice No.9

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While Arsenal Loanee Eddie Nketiah has stepped off the bench to score some vital goals for Leeds this season, winning them five valuable points in the Championship’s promotion race, his importance to the side is minimal when compared to Patrick Bamford, as Saturday demonstrated.

Bamford was excellent against Neil Harris’ side, showing excellent link up play and working tirelessly for 77 minutes on Saturday, scoring two goals and deserved to finish on the winning side. Within five minutes of Nketiah’s introduction, Cardiff had a second, and within 11, they were level.

It would be unfair to pin the blame on the Arsenal younster, as Leeds as a side collectively completely folded, but Nketiah was unable to hold the ball up and provide the same attacking threat as Bamford had done, while he was at at fault after his lacklustre attempt to close down the long-ball that led to Cardiff’s third.

Post-match, Bielsa explained how he didn’t feel the substitutes had cost Leeds the game, but they certainly didn’t help them see it out. Right now, there’s no debate who should be leading the line for Leeds heading into Christmas, with Bamford the clear and deserved Leeds first choice No.9

Leeds’ key players are sorely missed 

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The frustrating result and manner in which they threw away their commanding lead highlighted how badly Bielsa missed some of his absent players. Liam Cooper sat the game out as he recovers from a calf strain, whilst Adam Forshaw remains on the sidelines due to a niggling hip problem.

In the final half-hour, Cardiff’s height and physical presence was causing Leeds serious problems, with Cooper’s absence in particular really felt in the closing stages. Glatzel beat Pascal Struijk too easily on the floor for the equaliser, and you do wonder whether Leeds would’ve ever capitulated in the manner they did had their skipper in the squad.

Furthermore, it was another game without midfield maestro Forshaw for Leeds, who could do have done with the midfielder’s ability to retain possession and steady head. Mateusz Klich and Kalvin Phillips desperately needed help in midfield as the game turned past the hour, and had Bielsa had Forshaw available to him on the bench, we would’ve seen him shortly after Tomlin’s goal. Getting this squad back up to full strength has to be a priority for Leeds if they are two remain on course to seal promotion back to the Premier League.

Bluebirds show tremendous character required to fight for promotion

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The hosts looked to be running away with it at Elland Road in the opening exchanges, with a Bamford double and Costa’s early goal giving Bielsa’s side a three goals advantage and seemingly out of sight and on course for their eight consecutive victory. However, 10-man Cardiff City completed the unlikeliest of comebacks thanks to a dramatic late equaliser from Glatzel to seal a share of the spoils.

If slow starts have become a hallmark of this Neil Harris side, then so has incredible character and resilience. In what was largely a disjointed performance, comfortably the worst of Harris’s reign, the Bluebirds looked short of ideas in attack and helpless against the relentless Leeds pressure. However, the Bluebirds players deserve massive credit to stage such an excellent comeback, especially considering they managed to secure their equaliser with 10 men following the dismissal of captain Sean Morrison after his tackle on substitute Nketiah.

If Cardiff can begin on the front foot and get out of the blocks quicker against opponents, while replicating the type of resilience and character that snatched them a seemingly impossible point at Elland Road, they can definitely find themselves within contention of being in the play-off positions at the end of the season and make them a real threat to the rest of the sides in the division.


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