Battling Leeds go down to defeat at Leicester
Sunday, 6th Mar 2022 20:44 by Tim Whelan
Leeds produced a much improved performance at the back, but some familiar failings at the other end of the pitch meant we suffered yet another defeat, this time at the hands of Leicester City.
There were just two personnel changes to the starting line-up compared to the Spurs game, with Klich and Rodrigo coming in, replacing Forshaw who was on the bench and Llorente, who was out injured. But that simple stat belies the wider changes to our formation and tactics. Koch dropped back into his favourite position in central defence as we adopted a 4-2-2-2 formation and a zonal marking system.
Leeds made a very lively start to the game, and went close in the first few minutes. Harrison sent James through on the right hand side of the penalty area, and Schmeichel did well to get down and turn his shot round the post, though it might not have been going in anyway. And the roles were reversed about ten minutes later when James made a strong run through the middle and released Harrison on the left. This time the shot was definitely on target, but Schmeichel saved with his legs.
We did have one anxious moment when Firpo brought Vardy down as Leicester broke on their right, but thankfully the referee decided that a yellow card was sufficient, as Vardy hadn’t got forward enough for it to count as a clear goalscoring opportunity. A dismissal would have been harsh, as it was more of a coming together as Vardy cut across Firpo as the two players rushed back.
But the officials were less generous to Leeds when Rodrigo was caught by Soyuncu, but on-field referee David Coote and the man in the VAR studio decided there was nothing doing. We were still on top and produced one more decent chance just before the break.
An excellent move involving Klich, Firpo and Rodrigo ended with Rodrigo having a shot from a narrow angle and the ball being palmed back into Firpo’s path. He did well to get over the ball and keep his fierce shot down and on target, but unfortunately sent it straight into the crowd of players in front of him instead of directing the ball into the corner.
The second half began where the first left off, with Leeds still having most of the possession. We carved out another great chance when Rodrigo got his head to an outswinging corner to flick it goalwards, but once again Schmeichel was well placed to beat it out.
And the Dane save the home side yet again as Harrison sent Firpo away to the byline, and Raphinha got to his dangerous ball right across the face of goal, but Schmeichel got his legs in the way to keep it out, even though he might not have known too much about it this time. Then Raphinha jinked his way into position to get a cross in, and when the ball came back to him he shot first time from close range, but could only send the ball over the bar.
To give us a bit more energy up front as we sought the elusive breakthrough Jesse March made the first substitution of his Leeds career, sending Gelhardt into the fray in place of Rodrigo. And I thought that Leicester’s main attacking threat might have gone when Vardy hobbled off to be replaced by Iheanacho, but the Nigerian looked lively and would play a part in the goal that would decide the match.
Despite all our efforts it was the home side who finally got the only goal of the game in the 67th minute. Tielemans swung the ball over to Barnes on the left, and after a one-two with Iheanacho he was able to fire it through Ayling’s legs and into the far corner, even though Meslier got a slight touch. All very harsh on Leeds, but we are all too familiar with failing to take our chances and then going behind.
Marsch responded by shoring up the midfield as Forshaw came on for Klich, but there were groans all around as he made his final change, with Harrison making way for Tyler Roberts. It’s a mystery to us why Bamford didn’t come on instead, as it he was fit enough to make the bench he surely must have been fit enough for the 14 minutes plus injury time that remained at this stage.
And the change worked out even worse than we expected, as Roberts got injured almost immediately, and with all substitutes used he had to hobble round the field for the final minutes of the game. He tried to get in Schmeichel’s way at a couple of corners, but that was all he was able to do.
Schmeichel was announced as the home side’s man of the match, which said it all about the way the game had gone. We kept pressing forward but even with three minutes of injury time we couldn’t create any more opportunities, so ended up with nothing from the game when we deserved a point at the very least.
After the final whistle the new head coach demonstrated his commitment to the cause by doing the Leeds salute and getting the players into a team-bonding huddle, before taking them over to the Leeds section of the crowd to thank us for our support. I’m sure if we can keep our spirits up and playing like this the results will come and we can get the points we need to stay in the Premier League.
We can be thankful that the bottom three all lost over the weekend, even if Norwich’s defeat was at the hands of Brentford, who we are hoping will drop into trouble to give us another route to safety. And if Everton lose to the inconsistent Spurs tomorrow night we will at least keep the same place in the table we had before this game.
We need at least four points from the games to come this week at home to Villa and Norwich, but the performance against Leicester has allowed me to believe that we have a coach who is well capable of guiding us to Premier league safety. MOT!
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