|Millwall 2 v 1 Leeds United|
Saturday, 5th October 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds undone by incredible red card at the New Den
Sunday, 6th Oct 2019 12:22 by Tim Whelan
For the second Saturday running Leeds lost in South-East London, but this defeat to Millwall owed much to the ridiculous dismissal of Berardi after only 14 minutes.
As ever, the locals were determined to ‘raise their game’ for this particular fixture, both on and off the field. This time they were boyed by the departure of Neil Harris, and after spying on the Millwall Online messageboard I can tell you that he had become unpopular with the fans for his hoofball tactics and always falling back on defence and inviting pressure whenever Millwall got in front.
The home side made a lively start, and had an early opportunity when Harrison should have cut out a ball out to the wing, but decided not to bother. That ended up with Romeo shooting from a narrow angle, but Casilla was well positioned to make the save.
We then had a couple of long range shots at the other end, but like all independent Leeds site that have reported on this game I’m now going to explode with indignation at what happened next.Berardi accidentally clipped Bradshaw’s heel as the Millwall man turned on his way into the area, and then took another step before falling over.
It’s possible that Bradshaw had been unbalanced by the contact and didn’t go down intentionally, but the penalty certainly seemed rather soft. That was bad enough, but the referee then compounded it by deciding to produce an absolutely ridiculous red card for Berardi. There might be something in Gary Rowett’s suggestion on TV that referees are after Berardi because of his reputation, and don’t base their decision on what has actually happened.
There are three reasons why Berardi shouldn’t have gone for a professional foul. First, the latest guideline is that accidental contact shouldn’t result in a red card. Secondly, Bradshaw was cutting inside rather than going straight for goal, and thirdly, Phillips was also back and in position to make a tackle, so he certainly wasn’t clean through on goal.
After Casilla had done his best to put him off by jigging about on his line, Wallace stepped up and hammered the penalty into the top right corner. Despite the prospect of having to play for 75 minutes with only 10 men, Leeds did their best to pick themselves and get back into the game, and as ever we enjoyed a fair bit of possession with some good moves coming forward.
And we had a penalty shout of our own when Harrison tried to cut back and was caught by a late flailing leg from a defender. It would have been soft, but it looked as much a penalty as the one Millwall were given. In the interests of inconsistency the referee duly ignored it and waved play on.
Millwall were also playing with plenty of spirit and they were close to a second when Wallace fired wide, and Casilla also had to make a decent save from Thompson. And they did double their lead just before half time, when Bradshaw beat Ayling to a cross to divert the ball into the far corner of the net.
It looked like Leeds had a mountain to climb, but we came out for the second half in a determined mood, no doubt fired up after a bitter session of moaning about the injustice of it all in the dressing room. Costa had been ineffectual in the first half, and was replaced by Douglas, with Alioski moving further forward, and Harrison moving to the right.
And this seemed to be working, as we got back into the game only a minute after the restart. Harrison delivered a cross from the right and Alioski took advantage of his more advanced position and some slack Millwall marking to nip in and pull a goal back. He celebrated by giving his usual ‘heart’ signal to the Leeds fans in the upper tier behind that goal.
There followed a long period when Leeds dominated possession despite the man disadvantage, with some good passing moves, but typical of Leeds this season, the final pass was lacking too often and we struggled to convert our dominance into clear cut chances. We had a shot from Kilch from outside the box that went just over, but that was as close as we got.
I thought Bielsa might gamble and put two up front to try to get back into the game, but he went like for like by replacing Bamford with Nketiah. However, his final change was a bit more positive, with Phillips coming off for Roberts, going some way to make amends to Roberts for ‘hooking’ him in midweek.
Inevitably this left more space at the back, and the home side started to get a few opportunities as time ran out, maybe as we tired after playing with 10 men for so long. Bradshaw shot just wide and Casilla had to save a free kick from Wallace. And we nearly conceded a shocker after getting into a muddle trying to play out from the back, though Romeo was kind enough to shoot wide when presented with the ball in front of our goal.
There were four minutes injury time to be played, but the ref refused to allow any time beyond that despite some blatant time-wasting by Millwall within those four minutes. The crowd had been begging for the final whistle despite their man advantage, and when the whistle came they celebrated like they’d won the cup final. Perhaps it's their cup final.
So we went down to an incredibly annoying defeat, as it’s a hard enough place to come to without decisions going against you. And so we have slipped out of the top two and into the play-off places, and we have two weeks to stew over the injustice of it all before our next league game.
We certainly deserved a result from this game, but amidst all the complaints about the referee, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that yet again we failed to turn our dominance into goals, with the same old failing that too often the final ball just wasn’t good enough.
Reuters Media Express
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