Leeds United 3 Millwall 1: Somma praise from Grayson

WHISPER it quietly, but something may well be stirring down Elland Road way.

Leeds United, in recent years a byword for the heavy price football clubs can pay for over-reaching themselves, are back in the Championship and looking to make a big impression.

Against a Millwall side sitting proudly on top of the fledgling Championship table and who had arrived in Yorkshire on the back of having won 19 of 27 league games in 2010, they did just that.

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After claiming a creditable draw from the trip to strongly-fancied Nottingham Forest the previous Sunday, Leeds produced a stunning display of attacking football to tame the in-form Lions.

United may have needed two late opportunistic strikes from substitute Davide Somma to claim the points but no one in the 25,067 crowd could deny at the final whistle that the right team had won.

Not only did Leeds score a trio of well-worked goals, they also struck the woodwork three times, had one shot cleared off the line and were left frustrated by three stunning saves from goalkeeper David Forde.

Some of their attacking play – and particularly in the first half – was a delight with the incisive running of Sanchez Watt and pinpoint passing of Neil Kilkenny meaning the visitors defence was led a merry dance by the Yorkshire side.

It all added up to a hugely encouraging afternoon for United, who let us not forget are still without their two best players from last season, Robert Snodgrass and Patrick Kisnorbo, due to injury along with new signing Billy Paynter.

Get that trio back in action along with Max Gradel, who has now served the four-game ban that followed his red card on the final day of last season, and the future really could be very bright for Simon Grayson's side.

The United manager said: "Millwall are a good team. They came here on top of the division with six points, seven goals and none conceded.

"The manner of our display was very pleasing. Getting the first win is always important. It means you are not looking over your shoulders any longer.

"It is encouraging that we will have players coming back in the next month or so that will make us stronger. That will push those already in the team.

"We have set ourselves a standard but now must maintain it."

Only time will tell whether Leeds can maintain the attacking swagger that brought a first win over Millwall in five attempts.

But if they do then Grayson's men must surely have as good a chance as any of forcing their way into the promotion race.

Reverting to the 4-4-2 formation that had brought an escape from League One, United immediately looked much more at ease.

Watt, in particular, seemed to relish being moved up front alongside Luciano Becchio as the loanee displayed the footballing pedigree that comes with being schooled by Arsenal.

From the opening exchanges, the 19-year-old Londoner was giving the Millwall backline a torrid time.

He had already fired off two shots by the time the visitors took the lead against the run of play courtesy of two defensive blunders.

First, Federico Bessone, who on the basis of his first few displays seems to be continuing the trend of United not having had a quality left-back since the days when Tony Dorigo patrolled the flank, fired the ball against Steve Morison and then allowed the highly-rated Lions striker to loop a towering cross into the penalty area.

Mistake No 2 followed a second or two later when Richard Naylor allowed himself to be manoeuvred out of the way by Kevin Lisbie, meaning that the Leeds captain was off balance when heading and the ball flew beyond the helpless Kasper Schmeichel and into the net.

To United's credit, they responded in admirable fashion as Sam had a shot cleared off the line by Darren Ward and Jonny Howson struck a post.

The equaliser, when it came on 32 minutes, saw Watt again involved with a neat pass to Becchio, who then found Sam and the former Charlton Athletic wideman finished with a low shot from 20 yards.

David Forde's stunning double save to deny Watt and then Howson was followed by Neill Collins heading against a post as Millwall somehow survived to go in at the break level.

Kenny Jackett's response to his side's mauling was to switch to 4-5-1 just before the hour mark but it did little good as Leeds continued to look the more likely to score.

The breakthrough finally arrived 11 minutes from time when Forde, under pressure from Becchio, flapped at a right-wing cross and Watt returned the ball into the centre for Somma to score.

Almost straight away, Schmeichel had to save acrobatically from the otherwise anonymous Liam Trotter before Somma sealed the points in stoppage time with a fine finish after being found by an outstanding 50-yard pass from Howson.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Davide Somma

Neil Kilkenny may have been the game's outstanding performer, just pipping Sanchez Watt to the accolade, but Somma's introduction from the bench with 15 minutes remaining ensured Leeds claimed the win their play had deserved.

Villain: Millwall fans

Usually, being forced to get up early and then face the inconvenience of collecting match tickets from Wooley Edge services would be cause for sympathy. But the disgusting 'Istanbul' chant emanating from the 550 away fans just before Richard Naylor's own goal meant it was in short supply.

Key moment

David Forde flaps at a right-wing cross allowing Sanchez Watt, right, to claim possession and cross for Davide Somma to put Leeds in front for the first time.

Ref watch

Colin Webster: At times, he seemed swayed by the vociferous home crowd but, overall, the Tyne & Wear official had a decent match and got the major calls correct.

Verdict

A hugely encouraging afternoon for Leeds, who produced arguably the best attacking display of Simon Grayson's 20-month reign against an in-form Millwall side who could have had few complaints with a four- or five-goal losing margin.

Quote of the day

We knew he was a goalscorer and we've seen in training that he can finish with both feet.

Leeds United manager Simon Grayson's verdict on match-winner Davide Somma.

Next game

Leeds United v Leicester City; Tomorrow, 7.45pm; Carling Cup second round.

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