Leeds United become the 1st team in the 33-year history of the Championship play-offs to fail to reach the final after winning the first away leg. Derby County looked down and out when Stuart Dallas opened the scoring for the Whites in the first half. United’s record when they go up front has been impressive, and Derby County had to make up two goals. Moreover, they had played close to 120 minutes of playoff football without having a shot on target, and the odds were stacked against them.
So how did Lampard manage this turnaround? It’s true that Leeds United shot themselves in the foot with their individual errors, but the Rams deserve all the credit for changing the course of the game. Here are three reasons why The Rams were victorious.
Pressing from the top
In the first leg, Lampard’s men allowed Leeds United to have the ball in their own half, and they sat back. The game was comfortable for the Whites as they were able to dictate play and pick out passes from the back. In this game, they were given far less time by Derby County as Lampard decided to push his men high up and disrupt Leeds United’s play. They pressed as a pack and that paid rich dividends.
The first goal came about when Jack Marriott was applying the pressure on Liam Cooper, and the United captain and Kiko Casilla made a hash of a straightforward clearance. Well if Marriott wouldn’t have been on Cooper’s heels, then United could have got away with it.
Derby County were able to change the game in the second half because of the same tactics. The winner came about when the Rams won back the ball in transition and Richard Keogh; the centre back was found pressing in the attacking third. Even the red card for Gaetano Berardi happened due to Derby County’s extraordinary commitment to press. Berardi initially did well to win the ball, but he was closed down soon by onrushing players, and he made an unfortunate mistake of going into a challenge. Leeds United always looked like a team which could be hassled when they were pressed high, and Derby County used that to great effect.
Throwing Marriott in the game early
Often managers wait until the 60-70 minute mark to bring impact players, but Lampard was brave enough to throw another striker in the first half itself. Marriott was definitely the game changer with his runs and energy up front. The former League One top scorer made a good case for starting in the final after his impressive brace.
Committing men forward
Lampard decided to take on Bielsa on his own game by creating a lot of overloads in the attack. Derby County’s performance for the first one and a half match of football was extremely cagey. However, Lampard most likely gave the freedom to his players in the second half to move forward and play without inhibition even when they were just one goal down. Bielsa and Leeds United probably didn’t expect a start like that, and that is where the game turned.
Fullbacks and even centre backs were pushing on, and the game was extremely frantic in the second half. Derby County started winning a lot of second balls in the attacking third, and because of that, the likes of Harry Wilson and Mason Mount began to get on the ball in dangerous areas.
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