|Leeds United 1 v 2 West Ham United|
Barclays Premier League
Friday, 11th December 2020 Kick-off 20:00
Defensive lapses cost Leeds dear again as West Ham cruise to deserved win
Saturday, 12th Dec 2020 08:56 by Lucas Monk
Leeds United's set piece struggles showed no sign of abating as the Whites slumped to a fourth defeat in six games on Friday evening.
Despite having taken an early lead through a Mateusz Klich penalty, Leeds deservedly fell to defeat against a well-organised West Ham United side who took full advantage of the Whites' lamentable fragility in dead-ball situations.
Tomas Soucek headed in from a cheaply conceded and poorly defended corner and Angelo Ogbonna a free kick, allowing the Hammers to claim a 2-1 victory.
The result leaves Leeds in 14th position in the Premier League table, and there are growing fears that the club could well find itself embroiled in a difficult fight against relegation in the second half of the season. The Whites have been competitive, certainly, but all too often has their defensive porosity been their downfall.
The result was no less than the visitors from East London deserved. After going behind to Klich's retaken spot kick, they responded admirably. David Moyes made a shrewd tactical decision in instructing his side to press the hosts high upfield. In doing so, the visitors forced a whole host of errors and capitalised upon them with some ruthlessness.
They were soon level after Jack Harrison, under considerable pressure, conceded a corner. Soucek rose highest at the back post, and Illan Meslier was unable to keep the header out.
Though the Frenchman could well have done a better job in that instance, he was in all honesty the only Leeds player to do himself justice on the night. He subsequently produced a string of superb saves to deny Sebastien Haller and keep his beleaguered teammates in the game.
Leeds did fashion a few opportunities, and most notably the best of these fell to Rodrigo, the club's record signing. In the first period, a perforating pass from Raphinha put the Spaniard through on goal. He could only direct his shot straight into the gloves of Lukas Fabianski. Second, a good cross in second-half injury time presented him with the chance to salvage a point, but again he could only find the grateful gloves of the Polish shot-stopper.
As mentioned previously, the result was no less than West Ham deserved. Obviously, both of their goals arose from set pieces, which is a concern. What is rather more perturbing is the way in which the visitors forced these opportunities. The physicality of Soucek and Declan Rice gave the Hammers the upper hand in the crucial midfield contest, that recurring battle for supremacy that is so key in every match. Leeds did not help matters with their slipshod passing and impetuous fouling.
Soucek and Rice dominated the Leeds trio of Klich, Kalvin Phillips and Rodrigo, and provided Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen ample opportunity to run at a weakened backline that suffered immensely from the absences of Robin Koch and Diego Llorente. It was a recurring theme.
The players, clearly, fell some way short of expectations. So too did Marcelo Bielsa. To not bring on Pablo Hernandez, still the most creative player in the Leeds squad, when the team struggled to create much of note in open play against a disciplined Moyes rearguard was utterly baffling. Tyler Roberts, Jamie Shackleton and Helder Costa had no impact upon the game whatsoever and, if anything, the evening became much easier for West Ham after their introduction.
Only the heroics of Meslier spared Leeds another heavy defeat akin to those they suffered against Leicester City and Crystal Palace, and next week's match against Newcastle is now a must-win fixture.
Leeds: Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Cooper, Alioski (Shackleton 45'); Phillips; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Klich, Harrison (Costa 45'); Bamford (Roberts 74')
Unused subs: Casilla, Struijk, Hernandez, Poveda.
West Ham: Fabianski; Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek, Fornals (Snodgrass 90+5'); Bowen (Johnson 85'), Benrahma (Noble 84'), Haller.
Unused subs: Randolph, Lanzini, Fredericks, Dawson..
Match Statistics (Leeds / West Ham):
Possession: 64% / 36%
Shots: 13 / 19
On target: 7 / 8
Corners: 5 / 6
Fouls: 12 / 10
Referee: Michael Oliver
Booked: Alioski (Leeds), Fabianski, Noble (West Ham)
Photo: Action Images
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