Leeds United 1 Burnley 1: Cellino returns with no regrets as his new-look Leeds impress

LEEDS United owner Massimo Cellino was a proud man after the respect he claimed relegated Burnley had shown his side at Elland Road.

Substitute Mirco Antennucci celebrates his 83rd-minute goal for Leeds United in the televised 1-1 Championship draw at Elland Road.
Substitute Mirco Antennucci celebrates his 83rd-minute goal for Leeds United in the televised 1-1 Championship draw at Elland Road.

That despite the fact that a former Leeds striker who had never scored at Elland Road let alone in front of a stunned Kop denied them an opening-day Championship victory.

Cellino was back at the ground as club chairman and president after serving a six-month Football League ban imposed following a tax evasion ruling by an Italian court.

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Reflecting on the 1-1 lunchtime draw, the Italian said: “Yes, I loved it because I was out for six months without seeing a game.”

Chris Wood shoots at goal. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

On whether he thought the Clarets had been afraid of new head coach Uwe Rosler’s side, he continued: “Yes, very much so. They just focussed on not letting us play football and that is something that makes me proud.

“It means that the coach of Burnley understands about football. They knew it was a very dangerous game for them.”

Asked about his plans for the future now that he is back at the helm, Cellino joked: “To pay my debts!”

On a more serious note and having hinted in his programme notes that there may be more new faces at Elland Road, he added: “It’s a long season, it’s tough to play in the Championship. I don’t know, let’s see (about new signings). I think it is better to have 20 good players than 50 average players. If you have too many players it can make things difficult.

“We are still building the confidence, the class, everything. It’s a fresh team, we have changed 12 players and the new players are growing and every day they change.

“Burnley played to not let us play. That’s good for us. Two beautiful goals came from good strikers and not because of defensive mistakes. Ours was down to pure football skills. There was nothing to regret. I am very happy.”

The Leeds goal was pure quality and came from last season’s top scorer Mirco Antenucci, who was praised by Rosler for accepting a place on the bench.

The Italian striker replaced debutant winger Stuart Dallas in the 70th minute and sent Michael Kightly the wrong way before curling the ball home inside Tom Heaton’s right-hand post from the right corner of the area.

It was what Leeds deserved for their second-half dominance but joy was short-lived as Burnley right-back Tendayi Darikwa crossed from the right and Sam Vokes rose above Giuseppe Bellusci to powerfully head home an 86th-minute equaliser.

Still working his way back to full fitness following lengthy cruciate ligament trouble, Vokes reflected on his eight-match loan spell in the League One promotion winning season of 2009-10 which brought him one goal at Bristol Rovers before a return to Wolves.

“Obviously I was here on loan and it was a great club to play for. Coming back today, the crowd was great for an opening game (27,672) but it’s always nice to score against anyone really,” he said. “My loan spell here was great because it was part of the year when they got promoted from League One. There were some good players at the time who have gone on to do big things.

“It’s a massive club whatever division they are in.

“I thought they were brilliant today, they put us under a lot of pressure and it was a class goal they scored.

“But, from our point of view, against a tough side like that, it was good to come back and get a point. I wish them all the best but I’m concentrating on us really.”

On his equaliser, the 70th-minute substitute added: “It was nice because when they scored they celebrated in front of our fans so it was nice to square things up a bit.”

Leeds could have been well clear by then had their three debutants been more accurate with their finishing.

Dallas went the closest early on when his shot cannoned off Heaton’s legs and struck the bar and Tom Adeyemi, sitting in front of the defence, hooked one over from Sam Byram’s nod down on a rare venture forward.

But it was Chris Wood who was the most profligate, snatching at a series of opportunities, although the £3m signing from Leicester otherwise had a strong game as the lone striker. His best opportunity came after the break when Gaetano Berardi clipped the ball over central defender Michael Duff but the Kiwi international failed to control on his instep and the ball rebounded into Heaton’s arms.

Burnley had given as good as they got in the first half and had two penalty claims rejected when Charlie Taylor tussled with Lukas Jutkiewicz as he hooked the ball over before the striker later claimed that Bellusci had handled as they chased a ball down the middle.

Alex Mowatt was also narrowly off-target with a fierce drive for Leeds and Kightly responded with a shot across the face of goal in a nip-and-tuck encounter which proved full value for the opening kick-off and left both camps in optimistic mood for the challenges ahead.