Sunday, 20 February 2011

Leeds United 2 Norwich City 2

Simon Grayson named an unchanged side for the visit of promotion rivals Norwich City on a wintry day at Elland Road.Morning snow had threatened the game, but another determined effort ensured the Elland Road pitch was playable for the clash.Referee Neil Swarbrick had arrived early to see the operation and keep his eye on the surface, and Grayson's team were equally quick out of the blocks when the game got underway.
Jonny Howson fired wide inside the opening five minutes and Luciano Becchio came within a whisker of heading home an opener after some more good build-up play.But Becchio did put Leeds ahead inside 18 minutes. Robert Snodgrass headed a free-kick on to the far post and Becchio rose above Adam Drury to nod the ball home.
It was the perfect start for Leeds against a side who responded almost immediately by hitting the post.
United started well, though, and Snodgrass was appealing for a penalty on 22 minutes when he felt he was brought down by Drury as he looked to get in a cross just inside the box.Snodgrass had to receive treatment on the half-hour after receiving a whack, but he was soon back in action.
On 35 minutes, Kasper Schmeichel pulled off his first save of the afternoon when he pushed a shot from distance around the post.
But it was almost 2-0 moments later. Eric Lichaj got in a cross from the byline and after Howson's first shot was blocked his second effort came back off the underside of the bar.
Norwich responded immediately, though, and David Fox sent a shot wide from distance.
But Howson threatened again when he almost got on the end of a delightful give-and-go that would have released him on goal.
And it was Norwich who got back on terms in the finest minute of stoppage time. Grant Holt nodded a ball down to Henri Lansbury inside the box and the on-loan Arsenal youngster smashed home a first time strike to make it 1-1.
It was a blow for Leeds and gave Norwich a huge lift in stoppage time.
The second half started a quick pace, though, and the visitors had a couple of half-chances. United also had a couple, Neil Kilkenny firing wide and both Jonny Howson and Max Gradel seeing efforts deflected wide.
Both sides were on the front foot looking to win the game, Gradel tried his luck again when he had another shot deflected to the arms of goalkeeper John Ruddy.
The post came to United's rescue on 65 minutes, but it was 2-1 to Norwich moments later. Andrew Crofts laid it wide to Wes Hoolahan who, cutting inside, tucked the ball home.
United looked to respond quickly and after Gradel was crowded out, Becchio was denied by some good defending, and Snodgrass had a shot saved.
Grayson brought on Davide Somma on 74 minutes and, just as at Portsmouth four weeks ago, his first touch was to make it 2-2. He latched on to a ball over the top and delivered a great finish to level the scores.
Somma was also denied by some great defending when Bradley Johnson whipped in a cross from the left.
As the game headed towards the 90-minute mark, it was Leeds who were looking to push, and three minutes of added time gave increased hope.
Billy Paynter was a 90th minute sub and he was agonisingly denied a winner by the hands of Ruddy after a neat one-two with Somma.But there was to be no winner as the stalemates between Norwich and Leeds continued.

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