Leeds flourish after making most of brief Somma spell
Leeds United 3 Millwall 1
Sunday 22 August 2010
Leeds United fans could have been forgiven for fearing it might be one of those days when Richard Naylor's own goal gifted an early advantage to a Millwall side who have had Leeds' number in recent times, beating them home and away last season and in the 2009 League One play-offs.
Instead they saw their side fight back with some vibrant attacking football to earn a first League win since promotion and inflict a first defeat on opponents who had started the day top of the Championship without a goal conceded.
There were eye-catching contributions from the summer signing Lloyd Sam, scorer of the equalising goal after 32 minutes, and Arsenal loanee Sanchez Watt before the substitute Davide Somma came on and stole the show with his first two goals for Leeds in the last 11 minutes.
Somma's first was a close-range finish after Millwall's goalkeeper, David Forde, had failed to deal with Sam's high ball into the box and Watt picked up the loose ball and squared for the South African to score.
Chances followed at both ends – Kasper Schmeichel tipping over Liam Trotter's volley and Sam heading against a post – before Somma secured the victory on a last-minute counterattack. Breaking into the box on to Jonathan Howson's crossfield ball, he lashed the ball high past Forde into the far corner.
It was the 25-year-old's first League appearance for Leeds since arriving from San Jose Earthquakes last summer, his only previous outing having come in a Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie after which Simon Grayson sent him on loan to Chesterfield and Lincoln City, where he scored nine goals.
The Leeds manager said: "Whether he could do it at this level we were unsure, but we knew he was a goalscorer. When you watch him in training he has fantastic feet, he hits it well with both feet and he is really composed."
The raucous celebrations at the end contrasted with the unease that gripped Elland Road when for the third successive League game, Leeds conceded an early goal. Steve Morison lifted the ball high into the Leeds penalty area from the corner flag and when it dropped Naylor, competing with Kevin Lisbie, nodded unwittingly into his own net.
Grayson was heartened by his players' response. "When you lose an early own goal it can put you on the back foot but the players showed good character and resilience, like we did last week at Forest. At half-time I was disappointed it was only 1-1."
Luciano Becchio spurned the first of a series of chances after 23 minutes, blazing over after Millwall's defender Scott Barron, in tackling Howson, had inadvertently teed him up. Howson then shot against the post before Sam had a shot cleared off the line by Darren Ward. It was the least Leeds deserved when Sam equalised with his third goal in as many games. Watt and Becchio combined to play in the former Charlton winger on the right of the area and his shot beat Forde low to his left, the goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball in vain.
Leeds' pressure almost led to a second but Forde's double save foiled Watt and Howson before the post stopped a Neill Collins header. The crowd were on their feet all the same before the break as Watt, operating as a second striker, left two Millwall players in his wake with a pirouette of which Zinedine Zidane would have been proud.
Grayson said: "Millwall can dominate you physically but we competed with them and got the ball to our flair players. Lloyd Sam was excellent in the first half and Sanchez Watt was also causing them problems."
The Millwall manager, Kenny Jackett, admitted that Leeds were "on the front foot more than we were today". He added: "We were very open in front of our centre-halves and Sanchez Watt gave us lot of problems in there."
To tighten things up, Jackett replaced the striker Lisbie with Darren Carter, a midfielder, and Leeds diminished as an attacking force, even if Forde had to be alert to foil Becchio. Grayson's response was to throw on Somma in the 75th minute and within four minutes the decision had paid dividends.
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