By Rich Brown
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Super Sub Luciano Becchio scored a superb hat trick as Leeds continued their good form with a 3-1 win over City. Stead had given City hope with an equaliser, only for the former Barcelona man to dash hopes with an awesome display of finishing at Elland Road.
City started in a 4-4-2 formation with Millen keeping faith in the system that had led City to five games without defeat. Stead and Haynes continued up front as City looked to take advantage of a leaky Leeds defence, who have conceded over 30 goals already this season.
James was called into action early on when he saved well from South African Davide Somma, after the forward found himself in a decent position. James was again needed when Carey almost scored in his own net, with James’ good positioning saving Carey’s blushes.
City looked dangerous on the break, and Stead forced Schmeichel into a good save with a shot from just outside the box.
The first half continued without much to discuss, with the game surprisingly devoid of any clear cut chances for either side. With both teams conceding more than their fair share of goals this season and many predicted an explosive opening spell, the reality was that both teams cancelled each other out in a tense opening 45 minutes.
The second half started with the home team seeming to impose a greater attacking threat, with James again saving from Somma. City suffered a blow when Carey was injured following a robust challenge from Howson, with the abysmal Nicky Hunt coming on for the remaining disastrous 25 minutes.
Hunt, who has endured a poor start to his City career, was defensively weak allowing Becchio a free header in the box after an excellent ball by Snodgrass.
It took just two minutes, however, for City to level. Adomah, who had had a quiet game until now, burst down the right before firing a cross to the near post where Stead was waiting to send the City fans into wild celebrations.
A chaotic four minute spell resulted in an incredible third goal when lax defending and a lack of concentration allowed Sam a shot on goal, which James failed to deal with adequately, leaving Becchio the task of knocking the rebound in when James should have done better than knocking the save straight into the centre of the penalty area.
Hunt was fortunate not to concede a penalty with the full back looking embarrassingly out of his depth, and it was his lack of defending that allowed McCartney to waltz unchallenged through the defence before crossing for Becchio, who had come on as a sub, complete a stunning hat trick.
Caulker and Pitman had late efforts saved, but City were unable to reduce the deficit as the home team condemned City to a first loss in six. City didn’t play badly, but suffered from a lack of composure in defence and with Hunt putting in such a shoddy performance, you have to wonder whether Carey’s absence had as much to do with Leeds’ win as Becchio’s hat trick.
Leeds: Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce, O’Brien, McCartney, Kilkenny, Howson (Paynter, 90), Johnson, Snodgrass, Somma (Becchio, 60), Gradel (Sam, 60)
Goals: Becchio 66, 70, 83
City: James, Carey (Hunt, 65), Caulker, Fontaine, McAllister, Adomah, Elliott, Johnson (Rose, 81), Campbell-Ryce, Haynes (Pitman, 56), Stead
Goals: Stead 68
Referee: P Crossley
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