Leeds go top but fear for Cooper af­ter knee in­jury

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Gabriel Kerr at Bra­mall Lane

A po­ten­tially long-term in­jury to cap­tain Liam Cooper threat­ened to over­shadow Leeds United’s lat­est re­turn to the sum­mit of the Cham­pi­onship.

Cooper limped off af­ter dam­ag­ing a knee mid­way through the first half of a dour York­shire derby that failed to live up to its pre-match billing and was set­tled by an er­ror from Sh­effield United goal­keeper Dean Hen­der­son.

Sub­sti­tute Aapo Halme, the tow­er­ing Fin­land Un­der-21 in­ter­na­tional who looks a real prospect, stood in man­fully in a ster­ling rear­guard as the visi­tors won at Bra­mall Lane for the first time in 26 years.

Leeds’ bid to end a 15-year top flight ex­ile has been blighted by a se­ries of in­juries to in­flu­en­tial play­ers this sea­son, and head coach Marcelo Bielsa ad­mit­ted he feared that Cooper had joined the ca­su­alty list. The Ar­gen­tine said: “It’s an in­jury to the menis­cus and it could be sig­nif­i­cant, but I need to wait to hear from the med­i­cal team be­fore know­ing the full ex­tent.”

Cooper is due for scans early next week to as­sess the dam­age sus­tained in what ap­peared to be an in­nocu­ous fall.

“For me, this win against a se­ri­ous op­po­nent is a very im­por­tant mo­ment in the sea­son,” added Bielsa, whose side have won their past three games. “We had to de­fend for long spells, and to be hon­est a draw wouldn’t have been an un­fair out­come, but it’s mas­sive credit to the play­ers for the way they saw out the game and the vic­tory.”

As a stale­mate looked in­evitable, the win­ner ar­rived with eight min­utes re­main­ing, the pre­vi­ously im­pec­ca­ble Hen­der­son fail­ing to con­trol an over­hit back-pass from John Egan, which let sub­sti­tute Jack Clarke pull the ball back for Pablo Her­nan­dez to send the ball into an empty net, the Spa­niard’s fifth goal in the last six away games.

The hosts’ missed op­por­tu­ni­ties proved to be costly. David Mc­Goldrick was the chief cul­prit, fir­ing over when keeper Bai­ley Pea­cock-Far­rell spilt a first-half cross. Mc­Goldrick’s strike part­ner Billy Sharp, who had found the net six times in four games against his for­mer em­ploy­ers, sent a far-post div­ing header into the turf and over as half time ap­proached.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult re­sult to take,” Chris Wilder, the Sh­effield United man­ager, ad­mit­ted. Sub­sti­tute Conor Wash­ing­ton’s over­head kick in stop­page time bounced back off the cross­bar as the Blades suf­fered a home de­feat for the first time since the open­ing day of the cam­paign.

Wilder added: “I thought that we played ex­tremely well and dom­i­nated a very good side for long spells. We missed a cou­ple of big chances and un­for­tu­nately the game was de­cided by an er­ror and we have to take it on the chin and move on quickly.”

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