Leeds take points off a ‘big six’ club for the second match running
Tuesday, 20th Apr 2021 21:33 by Tim Whelan
It was always going to be an evening dominated by the outrage at the proposals for the so-called ‘Super League’. But once a game of football broke out, Leeds were able to prove once again that we can live with the self-styled elite of European football.
Before the kick-off there were fans of both clubs outside Elland Road waving banners lamenting the death of football as we know it, while a plane flew overhead with a protest banner. And Leeds warmed up wearing ‘Football for the fans’ training tops, though Jurgen Klopp took exception to the club leaving them in the visitors’ dressing room when he spoke to Sky.
Klopp was anxious to point out that the team management and playing staff had nothing to do with his club’s decision to join the breakaway, and that he was strongly opposed to it. Fair play to him for that, but he came across as prickly and rather too keen to pick an argument with just about anyone, as he had a pop at Gary Neville as well as Leeds United.
But on to the footy. Leeds had two enforced changes to make as a result of the game with Man City. Cooper was suspended after his tackle on Jesus (who was fit to play their next game) and Raphinha was injured as a result of a foul by a City player who hadn’t been red carded. Work that one out. Not that I’m bitter, of course.
Struijk was Cooper’s replacement rather than Koch, either because the German is not yet fully fit or because Bielsa opted to have a left footer and a right footer in central defence. Harrison was back as Raphinha’s replacement, having been ineligible to face his parent club last week.
Liverpool gave Salah a rest, and another absentee for the reds was Alisson’s dodgy porn star moustache, now he’s had the good sense to shave it off. But they did field James Milner, the only current Premiership player to have played in the Premier League for Leeds before the start of this season.
Liverpool made a determined start to the game, possibly because they were seething about our training shirts and banners, though they did need the points more than us with a top four place at stake. That’s unless someone suggests that the big clubs should play in the top European competition by divine right, of course.
In the first few minutes Meslier had to tip a shot from Thiago over the bar. It was close to him, but it did swerve one way and then the other, so he did well to keep track of it. And as the Liverpool pressure continued, Llorente had to be alert to make a block after Jota had cut in from the right. The visitors were finding plenty of space down that flank, with Alioski’s limitations as a full-back again apparent against top opposition.
Yet Leeds were close to taking the lead against the run of play, when Phillips got to a poor ball out of defence, to play Bamford through on goal. But our leading scorer was let down by a slightly heavy first touch, giving Alisson the opportunity to rush out and smother the danger. That was to be our best chance of the first half.
As Liverpool’s dominance resumed, an excellent cross-field ball from Jota set Alexander-Arnold free in the space between Alioski and the onrushing Meslier. Mané had been allowed to run through the middle unchallenged as a couple of other defenders switched off, and had the simple task of directing the ball into the corner of the net once Alexander-Arnold had picked him out.
Liverpool were well worth their lead at half-time, but after the break Leeds were able to get more of the possession the more the game went on, as Liverpool started to run out of puff. But first we had to survive a couple of dodgy moments from Meslier. First he gifted Liverpool a chance with a poor clearance, then from the resulting corner coming off his line without getting the ball, but just scrambling back to tip a header from Jota over the bar.
There was VAR check when a cross bounced off Alexander-Arnold’s arm, but he had been trying to pull it out of the way at the time, so it would have been very harsh if a penalty had been given. That led to a corner and from it Costa managed to shoot over from right in front of goal, though his blushes were spared by the fact he was offside anyway.
That was just about Costa’s last contribution before he was taken off after another largely ineffectual performance. Poveda replaced him and was much livelier, but as usual he tended to want to beat too many players rather than look for a pass to a colleague in a better position. Our next chance came when Roberts set up Harrison, and some neat footwork took the winger round a couple of defenders, but Alisson saved the shot with his legs.
Then Ayling’s cross found Bamford in a great position, but his chip over Alisson didn’t quite dip enough and came back off the bar. By now it was all Leeds, and Poveda set up Roberts in a great position, but he blasted his shot rather than placing it into the corner, and sent it straight at the Liverpool keeper.
As we entered the last ten minutes Klich came on for Alioski, with Dallas switching to left back, and the final change saw Pablo come on for Roberts, as we looked for a bit of extra spark to grab the equaliser. But first we had to survive a moment when Liverpool substitute Salah was played through, but showed he fallible after all by sending his shot narrowly wide of the post.
And finally our pressure paid off with three minutes of normal time to go, as Harrison sent a corner in with plenty of pace, and Llorente got the touch he needed to send the ball out of Alisson’s reach into the corner of the net for his first Leeds goal. There were four minutes of injury time before Leeds were able to claim the draw that we deserved for our second half performance.
The many rampant pessimists in our fanbase will have rejoiced at the news that this point means we are mathematically safe from relegation, but that has been highly unlikely for some time now that we have begun to pick up points from the finest teams in the land. It’s a good tactic to wind up the opposition before kick-off so they start at a pace they can’t sustain, allowing our fitness to take effect well before the end.
But of course the One Day League scalp we really want to take is the team we face in our very next match. Bring it on!
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