Leeds kicked off the Championship season with a 3-2 win over Bolton.
The Daily Mail:” Could this be the year? It is a question Leeds United supporters ask every August and the answer is usually no.
However, if opening days are any barometer then the fallen Yorkshire giants may well have a shot at regaining the Premier League status they lost at this stadium a distant 13 years ago.
New manager Thomas Christiansen orchestrated a Roses victory that should not have been by such a narrow margin, with the visitors impressive but somehow left hanging on, on a rainy afternoon full of bright promise for the suffering hordes.
A double from Kalvin Phillips along with a predator’s strike from Chris Wood, with Gary Madine responding, gave Leeds the handsome lead their clinical efforts deserved at the break before an Adam Le Fondre penalty made for a nervy ending.
Christiansen was impressed but admitted he felt the strain. ‘My heart rate went up!’ he said. ‘This was the game I expected – a tough game against a good opponent – and a result I have dreamt of.’
The visitors went ahead after just seven minutes when Phillips drilled home a Pablo Hernandez corner with the aid of a deflection.
It sparked away end chants aimed at Garry Monk, the manager who jettisoned Leeds for the riches of Middlesbrough in the summer and whose new side lost their first match under his stewardship on Saturday.
They were not wishing him well. Those chants got a second airing on half an hour. Following a spell of Bolton pressure, Kemar Roofe found space on the right, crossed to the far post for new boy Ezgjan Alioski who smartly nodded inside to Wood.
The prolific Kiwi, five yards out, made no mistake, heading in off the underside of the bar. Wood plundered 27 goals last season and has been linked with a host of top flight clubs. ‘It is very important (he stays),’ Christiansen said when asked about his striker’s future. ‘But you never know what will happen. I am confident he will stay.’
Phil Parkinson’s men responded when Josh Vela’s corner found Madine at the far post to halve the deficit – but with home fans still celebrating it was 3-1 as Phillips tapped his second into an empty net following smart work from Wood.
On 65 minutes, Bolton were handed a lifeline when substitute Conor Shaughnessy acquainted himself too closely with Madine from a corner, almost pulling his shirt over his head.
After referee Simon Hooper pointed to the spot Le Fondre stepped up to fire the penalty right down the middle. Three goals, however, ended up being enough for three points.
‘To start the first game away with a win, it’s a very important and we have to continue with this,’ Christiansen added. ‘It’s started in a good way. We played the football I wanted to play.’
In the Denmark-born Spaniard, who is the seventh new manager to start a Leeds season in a row, they appear to have a bright young boss and have sold more season tickets than any other campaign since they plunged out of the top flight.
While it is early in his reign, new owner Andrea Radrizzani appears to be the safe pair of hands they have long-craved at theirs-again Elland Road and the eight summer signings will excite – although one of those arrivals, German goalkeeper Felix Wieldwald, will need to improve on a poor start here.
In a bid to cut down queues with a big crowd expected Bolton had asked fans to print their tickets at home rather than pick them up from the office. For long periods those supporters may have wished they stayed there, but Parkinson’s team showed spirit and improved from a shaky opening.
The manager, who saw David Wheater injured and the influential Vela stretchered off and taken to hospital, was pleased with the Wanderers’ efforts. ‘I thought we showed character and gave everything,’ he said.
‘I was pleased with the response. In the second half we were great and I take a lot of confidence from that. The third goal was a body blow because at 2-1 I thought Leeds were creaking.’ Parkinson has been offered a new contract and revealed he will sign it shortly. ‘It’s agreed with the chairman so hopefully we’ll get that done this week,’ he added.
His cash-strapped employers remain under a transfer embargo and last season’s promotion, a fine achievement, will be bettered if they avoid the drop this time around. Despite defeat, they showed enough here to suggest there should be three teams worse than them.