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

Sunderland 2010/11 preview

Sunderland's line-up in the 2009 pre-season friendly with Atletico Madrid

Steve Bruce’s Sunderland begin their fourth consecutive season in the Premier League against that other noughties yo-yo club, Birmingham City.

After taking over from the beleaguered Ricky Sbragia last summer, the former Wigan Athletic manager steered a squad ravaged by injury to 13th place, and two early cup exits.

While another summer has been/is being spent shearing the squad of its Roy Keane-era high-earners, arrivals have also been forthcoming.

With four young talents set to continue their exciting developments (Jack Colback, Jordan Henderson, David Meyler and Martyn Waghorn), and Darren Bent aware now is the time for more permanent England duties, the Black Cats must target a Europa League spot.

2009/10 begin in a blaze of pre-season friendlies. Chief among them was the game against eventual Europa League victors, Atlético Madrid, which Sunderland won 2-0. Continue reading