Leeds United 1-1 Preston North End: Leeds earn a share of the spoils late on
LEEDS, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Stuart Dallas of Leeds United scores his side's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Preston North End at Elland Road on December 26, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

It was honours even in West Yorkshire this afternoon as Stuart Dallas' late, deflected strike earnt his side a point in what was an unconvincing Leeds United performance. Outwitting, outmuscling and outplaying Leeds for large parts, Preston North End will feel hard done by to have been pegged back to a draw after their bold, high-tempo approach -  in what was a near flawless first half - gave them the lead. 

Alex Neil's men do still, however, remain in the playoff spots, while Leeds will no-doubt be frustrated to have wasted the opportunity to heap pressure on table-toppers West Bromwich Albion, who were also held to a 1-1 draw at Barnsley today.

Story of the match

Preston began the game in fine fashion, pressing Leeds high up the pitch and forcing them into uncharacteristic errors at the back. It takes courage and belief to perform in such a manner at Elland Road, two commodities this Preston side displayed in abundance. A flurry of early chances fell the way of the visitors. 

On 26 minutes, they would break the deadlock. Sean Maguire, typifying the grit and application of Preston, began the move with a fine sliding tackle inside his own half, with Ben Pearson picking up the pieces and combining with Brad Potts.

Embed from Getty Images

Pearson, looking to initiate a counter-attack, scythed the Leeds defence in half with a wonderfully-weighted, sweeping pass into Tom Barkhuizen, who unselfishly slipped in Alan Browne to his left. The Republic of Ireland international capped off the delightful move with an unerring finish to Kiko Casilla's right, and had Preston fans dreaming of their first league victory at Elland Road for nine years.

With Preston unable to sustain such a tempo for the course of the match, Leeds inevitably settled and improved as the half went on.

After the interval, tensions began to boil over, with Preston delving into the dark arts in an attempt to see out the victory. Tactical fouls and time wasting were not uncommon, and unsurprisingly, Pearson was at the heart of it all. 

The height and physicality of Potts, David Nugent, Paul Huntington and Ben Davies was also an issue for Leeds, who found themselves perpetually second-best in the air. Still, however, they continued to knock on the door of the Preston defence, with Ezgjan Alioski skewing over an inviting cross from Heldér Costa in the 65th minute.

Alioski then struck the post. Eddie Nketiah couldn't direct his header past Declan Rudd. But in the 89th minute, Leeds' saviour finally arrived as Luke Ayling picked up an overhit cross near the byline and cut back for Dallas, whose deflected shot looped past a hapless Rudd into the top-right corner.

Embed from Getty Images

Preston paving the way for future tactics at Elland Road

The consensus has long been that in order to stop this Leeds side at Elland Road, bodies must be stacked behind the ball and a cautious approach must be taken. Today, Alex Neil's men dispelled that myth with their positive, high-pressing tactical plan which exploited the home side's adherence to playing out from the back.

Leeds were harassed and with no time to think on the ball, became panicked and profligate in possession, gifting Preston a host of chances early on. They displayed a lack of variation in their football, a refusal to go direct and relieve the pressure. 

With their physicality and tenacity, Preston achieved something rare today : they managed to ruffle the feathers of Marcelo Bielsa's men. Teams will take note of this and be inspired by Preston's efforts for future visits to Elland Road.

Ben Davies return bolsters  Preston defence

Having attracted serious Premier League interest for his star performances over the last couple of years, it was no surprise to see the impact Davies' return from injury made upon this Preston defence today. Impermeable as a unit for large parts, Davies and centre-back partner Huntington were outstanding, nullifying the attacking threats of Patrick Bamford and Costa. Should he maintain these performance levels, Davies will be a Premier League footballer next year, whether with or without Preston.

 

 

MEDIA: 5VOTES: 1
VAVEL Logo