|Leeds United 2 v 2 Brentford|
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 5th December 2021 Kick-off 14:00
Bamford marks his return with vital last minute equaliser
Monday, 6th Dec 2021 08:24 by Tim Whelan
In truth this wasn’t a great result for Leeds with such a difficult run coming up, but we have to be relieved that we at least managed to snatch a point with a last minute equaliser against Brentford.
There were a couple of changes to the starting line-up, with Firpo coming back for the injured Struijk, and more importantly the return of Luke Ayling after his long absence. Patrick Bamford was also fit enough to make the squad, but had to make do with a place on the bench for the time being, with Roberts starting as the lone striker, to the dismay of some of us.
Brentford were missing their top scorer Ivan Toney, who has tested positive test for Covid-19. But they were able to include our former cult hero Pontus Jansson, who got something of a mixed reception on his return to Elland Road. At one stage he was informed that “you’re too soft to play for Leeds”, when he went down after a tackle from Dan James!
The opening stages saw plenty of effort from both sides but not much of a threat at either end. After 15 minutes Liam Cooper had to limp off, and we thought young Cresswell would come on as a like-for-like change. But then Bielsa seemed to change his mind and Harrison was the sub instead, which needed a bit more of a reshuffle.
Dallas went to right back while Ayling moved to the centre, and as both wings were already taken Harrison had to play somewhere in the middle. So we now had several players out of position, and this might have contributed to the defensive problems we were to suffer later in the game. Cresswell has looked very capable when he’s had to play this season, so might well have been the better option.
Meanwhile the bloke next to me was having a go at Roberts for our lack of penetration so far, saying “that …. will never be a number 9, get Rodrigo on!” And I won’t quote his exact words, because I now know that news feeds don’t pick up articles that contain swearing! This slagging of Roberts worked a treat, as he was to excel himself for the rest of the first half.
In the 27th. minute Raphinha popped up on the left, and his first cross was headed straight back to him by Pontus. But when the Brazilian whipped a slightly deeper ball across the face of goal, Jansson let it go, unaware that Roberts had raced in behind him. The Welshman had to stretch, but got the touch he needed to guide the ball into the corner of the net to put Leeds in front. I always said Roberts was a great player!
A few minutes later Roberts was close to getting a second, but Fernandez just managed to tip his shot over the bar. At half time we seemed to be getting on top, and I was looking forward to another three points, and a bit of a safe margin above the bottom three before our difficult run of fixtures begins.
We could have gone further in front early in the second half. Dan James was fouled just outside the box, and from Raphinha’s free kick Ayling’s header was heading for the top corner until Fernandez reached up and pulled off a wonderful save. But then the game was turned on it’s head in an eight minute spell, which started when Kalvin Phillips went down injured.
At first he managed to hobble on, but this left him unable to get back and protect the defence when Brentford constructed the move that led to their equaliser. Henry got to a long ball down the touchline and forced his way past Dallas, then Canos’ cross was deflected out to the edge of the area. Roberts had got back there to help out, but Baptise was able to nip past him to send a shot right into the far corner where Meslier couldn’t reach it.
A few minutes later Ayling had to stop a fierce shot with his face. Then Canos should have put the Bees in front when he got his head to a chipped cross, but could only send it wide, despite being only six yards from goal. But they did score on 62 minutes, after Forshaw and Firpo got in each other’s way just inside the Leeds half. This allowed Brentford to take possession and a neat interchange of passes set Canos free in the box.
The Spaniard was able to lift the ball past Meslier into the top corner of the net, and then quite unnecessarily he ran over to the Kop and seemed to provoke them by making a ‘going down’ gesture. Inevitably the response was a number of missiles, and went down theatrically after being hit by an empty plastic container, only to get up and run back about 30 seconds later.
By now Phillips had had to go off to be replaced by Klich, with Forshaw dropping slightly deeper. The atmosphere among the home fans was getting subdued, as we contemplated a defeat that would really drop us into trouble, while the Brentford contingent began to make themselves heard. In truth they were quite excellent for much of the game, some of the nosiest visiting fans we’ve had at Leeds for some time.
There was nothing for it but to send for the returning hero, with Bamford coming on for Firpo with 20 minutes still to play. Dallas took over at left-back and Ayling moved back to the right, and it seemed we were playing with three at the back, with Llorente the only other defender. At least we now began to put them under pressure again, even if it only led to Roberts and Klich sending shots straight at the keeper.
The frustration began to mount as Brentford slowed the game down at every opportunity, taking their time over every throw in and free kick, and the referee failing to invoke the six second rule no matter how long it took Fernandez to release the ball. We haven’t seen such quality time-wasting from a keeper since we had Marco Silvestri in goal.
Dallas sent a shot narrowly wide, before five minutes of injury time were announced. We looked to be heading for a very damaging defeat, but managed to force a corner with 94 minutes on the clock. Meslier came up for it, which might have distracted the Brentford defence, but it was Ayling who flicked it on, and Bamford who reacted to send the ball into the net as the crowd erupted.
The players all piled on top of each other to celebrate, with the emotion of Bamford grabbing the goal on his return. Was it just me, or should they instead have been trying to get the game restarted as soon as possible to try and get a win in the time remaining? Despite the relief, a draw wasn’t a brilliant result to get from this fixture.
From the restart a Brentford attack was cleared, and just as Raphinha was played into a good position on the win, the referee blew the final whistle. And up in the stands that was the cue for a bizarre incident involving Victor Orta, who had to be restrained while getting very animated and making a ssssh gesture towards somebody.
And as Marcello Bielsa said afterwards “Before the game it wasn’t a good result, after the first half it wasn’t as well, but when the game is finished we value what we earned. To have drawn the game the way we did, it changes the flavour. But, if you look at the game in its general context, we should have won it.
"We conceded the first part of the game, but without receiving any goals. From the initial 15 minutes onwards, we had a good half an hour. After Kalvin went back on and came back off, that made us lose organisation. But, it shouldn’t have been this way”.
“I think we ended up getting a result that was fair on one side and insufficient if you look at the whole game. We dominated two thirds of the game and we duplicated the amount of dangerous situations that we had, compared to the opponent.”
At least we finish the weekend six points above the drop zone, but is that going to be enough with the tough games to come? We’ll just have to hope that Phillips and Cooper’s injuries aren’t too serious, as we will need to have all our key players available for the rest of the month. MOT!
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