Elland Road verdict: Cracks are starting to appear at Leeds United as Christiansen looks to re-evaluate

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There was a danger on a day when nothing went right of Leeds United thinking that everything was wrong.

Thomas Christiansen’s time on untouchable ground lies some distance behind him and his players are in the line of fire with no easy way out of it.

Stuart Dallas has a word with Pablo Hernandez after missing a late penalty. Picture Tony Johnson.

Stuart Dallas has a word with Pablo Hernandez after missing a late penalty. Picture Tony Johnson.

The variables beyond Christiansen’s control took hold on Saturday as a disputed goal and the tame waste of an injury-time penalty allowed Reading and Jaap Stam their fun at Elland Road but there are signs of United’s head coach swaying from his own convictions too.

His first-choice goalkeeper has been dropped 12 games in and his preferred formation, the set-up which briefly took Leeds to the top of the Championship, is liable to follow after three straight defeats.

Christiansen might not tear the team up in its entirety but even he is starting to question whether his ideas as they are can stay the same.

It has, for him, been 4-2-3-1 for all but 45 minutes in Cardiff when Liam Cooper’s red card left Leeds with 10 men but a system which was beginning to fall apart away from home did likewise at Elland Road as a sedate first half brought on a first home defeat.

That a 1-0 loss was inflicted by Mo Barrow, a former Leeds loanee who did more in half-an-hour on Saturday than he did in four pointless months with United last season, would have rankled had more important matters not stemmed from the game.

Leeds go to Bristol City this Saturday and Christiansen must be close to the point of a substantial rethink, or close to the point of bold changes in tactics and line-up which regain United’s zest, lessens their predictability and restores the balance of their team. Barrow slipped home an 85th-minute winner as a goalless draw loomed, amid angry appeals of a foul on Pablo Hernandez, but this point of reckoning has been coming.

“I believe in my ideas,” insisted Christiansen, who maintained that Leeds had been unlucky to lose.

Hernandez had a penalty at his mercy in the third minute of injury-time but the draining confidence which Christiansen himself highlighted showed itself in a tame effort which Vito Mannone swallowed gratefully on his goalline.

“Of course we have to analyse the situation – what we can improve – and if the way we can improve has to be through a change in the system, we will change,” Christiansen said.

“These players can play in the same system or another one. The matter is to find a solution and to come back to winning.”

Vito Mannone saved a stoppage-time penalty to ensure Mo Barrow’s goal was enough to end Reading’s winless run.

United were handed a lifeline after Samuel Saiz was brought down in the box but Mannone kept out Hernandez’s weak spot-kick to give the Royals their first win in seven games.

Barrow failed to make an impact during a five-game loan spell with Leeds towards the end of last season but he showed United what he was capable of in a match-winning cameo off the bench.

Andy Lonergan, making the first start of his second spell at the club, had kept Leeds in the match only for Barrow to deny him a clean sheet and increase United’s woes after a strong start to the campaign.

Christiansen, who took a major decision in the summer by replacing Rob Green with Wiedwald as first-choice after the German’s £500,000 move from Bremen, appeared to give Wiedwald a vote of confidence in his pre-match press conference but caused a surprise on Saturday by dropping him for a 1-0 defeat to Reading.

Lonergan’s performance at Elland Road justified Christiansen’s call, despite Reading claiming a late win, and the 33-year-old – another summer signing who arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers after Green quit Elland Road for Huddersfield Town – is expected to receive an extended chance to play.

Christiansen had promised before the international break to analyse Wiedwald’s influence and the United boss said: “I have been thinking about this for a while.

“I believed that with playing at home there were things Andy could give the team. I thought he had a good game.”

Christiansen, however, said he would not need to offer Wiedwald consoling words, insisting that other players were also being forced to accept time on the sidelines.

Young midfielder Ronaldo Vieira was again absent from United’s squad against Reading having returned to training after a minor injury late last week.

Gjanni Alioski also failed to make the bench as Christiansen rested him on the back of two appearances for Macedonia.

Leeds: Lonergan, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi (Dallas 89), Phillips, O’Kane, Roofe (Sacko 68), Samuel, Hernandez, Lasogga (Grot 77). Unused substitutes: Pennington, Wiedwald, Cibicki, Klich.

Reading: Mannone, Bacuna, Tiago Ilori, Moore, Gunter, McCleary (Clement 90), Edwards, van den Berg, Beerens (Barrow 65), Bodvarsson, Aluko (Kelly 72). Unused substitutes: Blackett, Popa, Jaakkola, Smith.

Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).