Leeds endure frustrating defeat at Loftus Road
Wednesday, 27th Feb 2019 14:06 by Tim Whelan
Leeds had much the better of the first half, but lost their way after the break, and went down to a frustrating defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers.
We needed a victory from this game in hand to get back to the top of the table, and before the game our fans we were confident that we would get it against a QPR side apparently in freefall, with their seven consecutive defeats.
The Leeds contingent supplied most of the atmosphere and officially 3,105 of the 14,763 attendance (plus however many managed to get tickets in the home stands), while the crowd looked rather sparse at the other end of Loftus Road.
Marcello Bielsa kept faith with the same eleven who had started Saturday’s game at home to Bolton, but the bench had a more experienced look, with Douglas and Berardi having recovered from injury to take their place among the subs. And we made a great start to the game with an excellent move down the left, though it finished with a shot from Hernandez that lacked a bit of power and went wide of the post.
During the early stages we kept cutting through a QPR side that was understandably looking low on confidence, though our moves began to break down due to misplaced passes, with Harrison being the guilty party on more than one occasion. We did have a shout for a penalty when the ball seemed to hit Leistner on the hand, but in truth that would have been harsh, being a case of ‘ball to hand’ and all that.
We went very close from a corner which Phillips met with a firm header, but Lumley reacted well to tip it over the bar. And our best chance of the half came in the 33rd minute, when Hernandez crossed from the right and Bamford just failed to get the touch he needed to guide the ball into the net. It looked like he had got there in time, but the ball bounced over his outstretched leg.
But in the latter stages of the half we lost a bit of momentum when Cooper had to go off for a cut to his forehead, and it took about 10 minutes for him to get patched up. Phillips dropped back into defence, and we started to concentrate on not losing possession so we didn’t get exposed while a man down.
We might have been better off making a substitution rather than being down to 10 men for that length of time, especially with Berardi available to deputise in central defence. For the first time QPR started to come into the game, with Freeman making a couple of decent runs and Luongo shooting wide from their best chance so far.
And it was these two players who combined to give Rangers the lead as soon as the second half got underway. This time it was Luongo who got down the wing and Freeman evaded our defence in the centre to score from close range. They hardly deserved to be in front on the run of play up to that point, but the R’s were bolstered by that goal and began to believe that their run of defeats would finally come to an end.
QPR could have gone further in front soon after, but Casilla reacted swiftly to come off his line and block a shot from Luongo from close range. There was another anxious moment when for some reason Bamford was left to race back and cover and made a clumsy ‘forwards challenge’ inside the box, but fortunately the referee waved play on. And Casilla had to stretch to make another decent save from Wells.
Having weathered this storm we got back to putting Rangers under pressure in search of the equaliser and forced a series of corners, but failed to create a chance from any of them. But there was another overhit cross from Alioski which almost caught the keeper out at the far post, in the manner of the goal he scored on Saturday. I’m starting to think he’s doing this on purpose.
Bielsa made his first change, with Douglas coming on for Phillips, Alioski going further forward on the left and Hernadez moving to a more central position. And Douglas had a great opportunity to bring us level when the ball came through to him on the edge of the box. He had plenty of time to steady himself and hit it with his favoured left foot, but could only send the ball well over the bar.
The second substitution saw Dallas replacing Ayling, whose wayward performance has again attracted the wrath of our keyboard warriors on Twitter this morning. Dallas played a key role in our best move of the game, as he drove forward and exchanged passes before setting up Bamford. Bamford seemed certain to score when the ball came back off Lumley, but his header hit the keeper’s leg and somehow stayed out.
The final change meant that we finally got to see Izzy Brown in a Leeds shirt (in place of Alioski), but his main contribution was to come very close to being sent off. He was so keen to make an impression after all this time that he dived into a stupid tackle, which the referee must have considered making a straight red.
Brown then pushed his luck even further by barging into a QPR player by the touchline, yet didn’t even get a final warning, despite a campaign from several of our opponents for a second yellow card. After that he managed to calm down and stay out of trouble, but maintaining a full complement of players on the field didn’t mean that Leeds were going to force an equaliser.
Instead QPR managed to frustrate us as time ran out, taking the ball to the corner for as long as possible, while still managing to force Casilla into one more fine save to keep us in the game. Five minutes of injury time were announced, and the ref blew for time right at the end of this period, when I thought we should have got at least another minute because of a further stoppage.
Our bench thought so too, and that gave them something to moan about as the players went off. Pictures that have emerged on twitter show that Bielsa was so upset by the defeat that he then spent some time sitting on his own in the corridor outside our dressing room, so it’s good to know he feels our pain.
I could hardly believe we’d lost after our dominance of the first half, but reaction to our defeat has been very mixed on the messageboards today. I certainly didn’t see any evidence that the players didn’t care (as some have suggested) but there might be some truth in the theory that they are getting tired after going through Bielsa’s training methods all season.
We certainly need to find a way of making our possession count, and it would help if Bamford could learn to score against teams who aren’t Bolton Wanderers. We haven’t got long to pick ourselves up from this as we enter March and the decisive part of the season, and we will have to be a lot more incisive against WBA on Friday night.
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