Diego Llorente returns to help break Leeds’ league duck against Watford

Diego Llorente scored the only goal of the game in the first half against Watford to give Leeds their first win of the season

At the seventh attempt this season Leeds banished any growing self doubt by winning a Premier League game.

Admittedly they will face infinitely more awkward opponents than Watford and there remains a certain fragility about some of their play, but with Dan James finding his feet on the left wing and Diego Llorente restoring order to defence, optimism just about eclipsed pessimism at Elland Road.

“Of course I feel relief,” said Marcelo Bielsa. “We should have scored more goals but we defended well. The result was never in danger.”

There was somewhat less satisfaction in the Watford camp with their goalkeeper, Ben Foster, pulling no punches. “We were very poor,” he said Foster.

“If we’d equalised it would have papered over the cracks. Leeds were very sharp and worked their socks off but we didn’t have a shot on target. We can’t expect to come away with anything.”

Kalvin Phillips competes for the ball with João Pedro.
Kalvin Phillips competes for the ball with João Pedro. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Llorente’s return to central defence after injury not only offered Leeds reassuring stability but a source of stellar distribution from the back. The Spain international’s passing represented a key reason why Watford quickly found themselves on the ropes and it was thoroughly appropriate he scored the 18th-minute winner.

It arrived when Raphinha’s corner ricocheted off Juraj Kucka and Llorente’s sharp reactions enabled him to hook a volley beyond Foster.

The overwhelming Elland Road consensus was that shortly afterwards Leeds were denied a penalty when Simon Hooper turned a blind eye when William Troost-Ekong extended an arm and hauled James back in the area.

No matter; the good news for Leeds was that James enjoyed his best game since arriving for £25m from Manchester United. He seems to have finally got the hang of his new manager’s high-speed, high-intensity, high-pressing, game and his enthusiastic contribution to it at times left Watford looking as if they were running on empty. Their defence could certainly have done without James’s disorientating change of pace.

If Danny Rose had been looking forward to his first competitive return in a club fixture since leaving Leeds in 2007, he surely had a change of heart after struggling to subdue Raphinha and the impressive right-back, Jamie Shackleton.

Leeds, though, are traditionally generous hosts and when Llorente made a rare error, Ozan Tufan had the underworked Illan Meslier to beat but, miscuing, skied his shot over the bar.

As the second half unfolded Xisco Muñoz adjusted his formation from 4-2-3-1 to, theoretically at least, an attack-minded 4-2-4 and, for a few seconds, he thought Watford had equalised when Meslier uncharacteristically dropped a routine ball and watched in horror as it trickled over the line.

Fortunately for the Frenchman, the referee had already blown for Christian Kabasele’s perceived foul on Cooper. “If that goal had been given it would have been unjust to the overall picture,” said Foster.

After long periods of almost blanket Leeds dominance, an equaliser would certainly have been a bit of a travesty but their inability to conjure a second goal dictated that an element of fear lingered in the cool, damp October air until the high-decibel eruption of joy at the final whistle.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

Granted, Tyler Roberts’s late shot was cleared off the line by Kucka and then hit the underside of the bar but Bielsa must be hoping Patrick Bamford returns from injury after the international break wearing his shooting boots.

Given the hire and fire habits of the Pozzo family, Watford’s notoriously trigger-happy owners, Muñoz will presumably be happy to simply survive the next fortnight. “I’m sad and disappointed,” he said. “If we want to win games we need better performances. It’s important to change the situation.”

Contributor

Louise Taylor at Elland Road

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Chelsea’s Diego Costa pounces late to sink battling Watford
Chelsea had to rely on a goal in the closing minutes in their 2-1 defeat of Watford in which Cesc Fàbregas played a key role

Dominic Fifield at Vicarage Road

20, Aug, 2016 @4:16 PM

Article image
Abdoulaye Doucouré rescues point for Watford against Newcastle
The Frenchman headed a late equaliser after Salomón Rondón’s first-half opener in Watford’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle United

Paul Doyle at Vicarage Road

29, Dec, 2018 @5:10 PM

Article image
Burnley’s Sean Dyche returns to old home to send Watford to the bottom
Burnley score three second-half goals to leave Watford still without a win at Vicarage Road in seven League games this season

Ed Aarons at Vicarage Road

23, Nov, 2019 @5:18 PM

Article image
Matt Doherty leads Wolves to vital victory against winless Watford
Matt Doherty and an own goal from Daryl Janmaat earned Wolves their first win of the season against bottom side Watford

Paul MacInnes at Molineux

28, Sep, 2019 @4:12 PM

Article image
Fabian Schär’s scrappy strike salvages draw for Newcastle against Watford
Watford took the lead at Newcastle after just 78 seconds but had to settle for a 1-1 draw after Fabian Schär’s equaliser

Louise Taylor at St James’ Park

31, Aug, 2019 @6:24 PM

Article image
José Holebas equaliser earns point for Watford against Everton
José Holebas, the Watford defender, made it 1-1 for his team deep in first-half injury time, two minutes after James McCarthy had given Everton the lead

James Riach at Vicarage Road

09, Apr, 2016 @4:07 PM

Article image
Watford enjoy Scott Wootton’s blunder and leave Leeds to their woe
Scott Wootton’s ghastly second-half own goal at Vicarage Road put Watford into the FA Cup sixth round with a 1-0 win and all but ended Leeds United’s season

James Riach at Vicarage Road

20, Feb, 2016 @5:09 PM

Article image
Arsenal’s Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez turn on style against Watford
Arsenal claimed their first win of the season thanks to goals from Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez to ease them past Watford 3-1

Simon Burnton at Vicarage Road

27, Aug, 2016 @4:09 PM

Article image
Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic help Chelsea see off winless Watford
Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic put Chelsea in control, a Gerard Deulofeu penalty gave Watford hope but the visitors saw out a 2-1 win

Jacob Steinberg at Vicarage Road

02, Nov, 2019 @7:34 PM

Article image
Leeds break club transfer record to sign striker Rodrigo from Valencia
Leeds United have marked their return to the Premier League by bringing in Rodrigo from Valencia for a club record £30m

Will Unwin

29, Aug, 2020 @8:50 AM