Entering this playoff semi-final first leg, there was a general consensus that Norwich needed to take control. Having maintained an unbeaten streak of 16 games at home prior to this match and facing a youthful Leeds side that seemed to be struggling in recent matches, the expectation for David Wagner’s team was to secure a lead to carry into Thursday’s clash at Elland Road.

If this perspective holds true – though predicting the outcome of a two-legged tie is often a risky game – then Norwich may see the goalless draw as a missed opportunity in a competitive but somewhat sluggish encounter.

Considering the worries that briefly emerged about a potential relegation battle when they found themselves languishing in 17th place back in November, it’s quite remarkable that Norwich is still competing in football matches this late in May. Similarly, Leeds might have expected to be watching these playoffs unfold from a beachside bar after banking on automatic promotion, which never materialized.

Now, with only one game left to secure a spot at Wembley, Leeds will feel optimistic about their chances in the second leg, where they’re likely to demonstrate more attacking intent when it truly counts.

The match itself was disappointingly short on goal-scoring opportunities, with only three shots heading towards the net. While largely played to Norwich’s tempo, they struggled to break through the Leeds defense. Nevertheless, the lack of goalmouth action didn’t translate to boredom.

Daniel Farke had faced numerous questions throughout the week regarding Leeds’s poor playoff record in the Football League, which hasn’t led to promotion in five attempts. He rightly pointed out that his young team isn’t burdened by the past performances of former players. There were glimpses of promise from Norwich, who will be satisfied to return to Elland Road with the tie level.

Leeds thought they had taken the lead in the first half through Junior Firpo, but Georginio Rutter was deemed offside in the buildup – a decision that relied on the assistant referee’s judgment, as there’s no VAR in the Championship until the playoff final at Wembley.

Despite Norwich’s positive run towards the end of the season, doubts have persisted about Wagner’s cautious approach against fellow promotion contenders. However, to the delight of the crowd at Carrow Road, he fielded an attacking lineup, including the dynamic Jonathan Rowe, who made his first start since January after recovering from injury. This bold move brought plenty of attacking intent from a side that finished 17 points behind their opponents – a deficit larger than any overcome since the introduction of the four-team playoffs in the Championship.

Norwich had their moments, with Sam Byram making a crucial sliding tackle to deny Borja Sainz and Gabriel Sara missing narrowly. Substitute Christian Fassnacht also squandered an opportunity after failing to control a cross from Josh Sargent.

However, as the match progressed, it seemed both teams had already shifted their focus towards the next leg well before the final whistle.