Leeds United 0-4 Cardiff City

The formations. Pressing was on the agenda for both sides, but Cardiff's quality eventually told.

Clinical Cardiff destroyed lacklustre Leeds as Dave Jones’s side moved level on points with fellow Championship high-flyers QPR. Three quickfire goals in the second half killed the game as a contest, but the home side could so easily have made more of a spell in the first half when they were on top.

Leeds came into the game six points clear of the relegation zone, and knowing a win would lift them to within a point of the play-off spots. Their guests, save for one exceptional performance at Coventry last week, haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season, but such is the calibre of player available to Dave Jones, he’s managed to keep the Bluebirds happily inhaling the exhaust fumes of Neil Warnock’s Park Rangers.

Cocksure Cardiff immediately got comfy on the ball as their hosts sat off and pressed – furiously – from the halfway line. When Leeds did get the ball, they were unfussy and direct – the game’s first real chance coming when George McCartney dispossessed Chris Burke; the left-back finding Luciano Becchio to hold it up and lay on Bradley Johnson’s cross for the goal-hanging presence of David Somma.

The non-stop pressing unnerved Cardiff, and Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra grew more irate with each robbing tackle: Leeds swarming back and doubling-up on the ball-holder. Gradually, Leeds edged their way into the game, and by pushing the defence as near to the deep-lying forwards as possible, Cardiff’s passing corridors were closed down. Although Chris Burke dropped back looking to collect and carry, the playmaking Peter Whittingham was less pass-spraying quarterback and more defensive screen. Continue reading

Gus Poyet

Brighton's new stadium, Falmer, East Sussex.

Brighton & Hove Albion will be the highest ranked side in the competition when the FA Cup first round draw takes place tomorrow afternoon. Topping a tight League One table by three points, things are looking good for the Seagulls right now.

Although the club is yet to grace the Premier League (they last appeared in the top flight 27 years ago), a more hankered after milestone occurs next July when the 22,500 all-seater site at Falmer opens.

On the pitch, Albion have lost just 14 of the 49 games played under Gus Poyet – no mean feat considering the former Chelsea midfielder has changed the club’s footballing philosophy in the process.

I met with the South American on a nippy morning earlier this week. Well, I thought it was nippy anyway… Poyet was in his shorts. “My mind is always on the football,” he says.

Poyet is one of just two managers from the Americas currently working in the Football League* (Try and guess the other before you finish reading. I’ve put the other manager’s name at the bottom). Continue reading

Yuki Abe

The team and formation used in every World Cup 2010 game by coach Takeshi Okada.

Having recently tied Portuguese compatriot João Miguel (‘Moreno’) to a three-year contract, Leicester City coach Paulo Sousa is already seeking a rival for him in the defensive-midfield position.

Perhaps Sousa scored a free lunch courtesy of stadium sponsor Walkers – an afternoon spent tongue-tackling the remnants of Japanese Teriyaki crisps lodged in his gnashers then providing the idea of raiding the J-League.

The Japanese market has been neglected by Europe’s more powerful leagues, with suitors presumably deterred by the notoriously brittle East Asian physique, and a general paucity of individuality.

Yet with the worldwide tactical tenor of deploying a sitting-midfielder beginning to engulf England’s lower-league sides, homogeneity as an attribute has burgeoned in attractiveness. Continue reading