Leeds United Football Club - Matchreport Sunderland vs Leeds United

Sunderland 2 Leeds 3
Team News:

Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell was forced into making changes due to suspensions and with John Oster being refused permission to play against his parent club.

Midfielders Sean Gregan and Simon Walton were both serving one match bans which gave Matthew Spring the chance to make only his second league start of the season, whilst Aaron Lennon also made a rare start.

The Match

Sunderland started the game with real gusto, looking desperate for the early goal, but soon dropped the tempo which was largely thanks to the experience of some of United's older heads making sure the game was slowed down.

The home side won two early free-kicks but Leeds dealt with them comfortably, especially with Brian Deane's height coming in handy whilst acting as a makeshift defender.

The Black Cats right winger Liam Lawrence looked a real live wire and he was going to take some extra attention to be kept under control. He had a go with a long drive on ten minutes that did not trouble Sullivan.

Suspensions had given Aaron Lennon his chance and the teenager appeared to be ready to make the most of it. He was bright to start with, taking on men and involved in everything Leeds did well in the early stages.

He jinxed his way down the right wing and managed to send his cross into a dangerous position in the box but it was headed behind before David Healy could get there.

Lennon was also involved in United's first real break opportunity that came after 18 minutes, and if only the finish from Healy had matched the build up play.

Matthew Spring cleared the ball from the right back position straight to the path of Lennon whose first touch pass allowed Deane to thread the ball through for Healy to run onto, but the shot was straight into the body of Thomas Myhre in the Sunderland goal.

Gary Kelly then became the first man booked for a foul on Julio Arca just outside the area. Lawrence curled the free-kick just wide but Leeds will have remembered that the referee, Richard Beeby, sent two of their number off against Brighton at the Withdean.

This was a game many had not fancied Leeds to get anything out of, but that's exaclty what motivates Leeds, as it proved.

Just before the half hour mark it was Lennon who came good for Leeds as they took the lead against the run of play.

The ball had broken for Healy to have the shot but he was blocked out of it and it fell kindly to Lennon and he could not have finished it better, curling it home with his left foot past the despairing dive of Mhyre.

Leeds grew more confident after the goal and had a few more balls bounced their way they would have had more clear cut opportunites.

It was skipper Paul Butler's first return to the Stadium of Light after leaving for Wolves four and a half years ago, and five minutes before the break he picked up a yellow card with another foul on Arca.

Just afterwards Sunderland were gifted the opportunity to restore parity when Spring was judged to have held down Dean Whitehead inside the area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot straight away.

The same player stepped up to the mark and sent Sullivan the wrong way, comfortably putting it into the far corner of the net and suddenly Leeds had it all to do again.

No changes at the break for either side, it was Leeds who appeared the more confident as they set off in search of a second goal.

Eight minutes into the half though it was Sunderland who had the first real chance. Chris Brown saw his shot palmed clear by Sullivan at the expense of a corner from which former United loan signing Steven Caldwell missed the opportunity to hurt his former club as he sent his header over the top.

Just before the hour mark Matt Kilgallon produced a great tackle to prevent Lawrence from going through on goal but it came at a price as the young defender injured himself in the process, fortunately though he was albe to walk it off and returned to the action after a few minutes treatment.

Right on the hour mark though Leeds regained the lead and it was thanks to perserverence from Matthew Spring and David Healy down the left that they got the second goal.

Spring battled hard to keep possession of the ball down by the Sunderland byline, he then simply passed it to Healy behind him and he delivered an inch perfect cross for Brian Deane to head. The keeper got hands to the ball but could only palm it onto the underside of the bar and it bounced down and in.

Leeds kept coming forward after the goal and Richardson came close with a shot that dipped low before the keeper and nearly deceived him with the bounce, taking two attempts to keep it under control.

With 15 minutes left to go Sunderland broke ominously with Arca, no-one appeared to be able to get close enough to stop the Argentine winger's run and eventually the shot came in - Leeds were spared though as the shot cannoned back off the post. Lady Luck smiling on Leeds? Surely not.

Julian Joachim came on with 12 mintues left, replacing Aaron Lennon who had surely done enough to put himself in the manager's good books.

David Healy nearly grabbed the crucial third goal for Leeds on 80 minutes as he raced towards goal, the Black Cat's defence backing off all the time, and then found the space for the shot but drew a smart save from Myhre.

The killer goal was not long in coming though, five minutes before the end Matthew Kilgallon swept a long ball out to the right hand side, Sunderland anticpated the off-side flag but it never came, the ball falling for Wright who then delivered it low and hard into the box where Julian Joachim swept it home, giving Myhre no chance in the process.

Matty Spring could have added a fourth just before the end but his shot from the left of the area was tipped away by the Black Cats keeper.

Just as three minutes of extra time was announced to a half full Stadium of Light, Julio Arca put Sunderland back in with a chance of getting something out of the game as he despatched his free-kick into the top left hand corner of the net.

It set up a great finale to the game with the score 3-2 and both sides going for it one way or another.

Leeds had done enough though to secure the win and what a very merry Christmas present it was too!

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