Leeds take a point from spicy game at Selhurst Park
Tuesday, 26th Apr 2022 08:34 by Tim Whelan
Before the game the talk was that Leeds needed a win as we have some tough fixtures to come after this, but in the end we were glad to take a point from a match where Leeds always worked hard, but Crystal Palace created the better chances throughout.
There was one bit of good news before kick-off, as the two week break since the last game had allowed Kalvin Phillips to gain enough fitness for his eagerly anticipated first start of 2022. And it came just in time, with the sad news that Adam Forshaw’s season is over after he suffered a fractured kneecap in training. Otherwise the starting line-up was unchanged.
The game began at a frantic pace, with Leeds looking to close the opposition down, as ever, and Palace conscious of the need to get a couple more points to make sure their own Premier League status is preserved for another season. And the atmosphere in the stands was equally lively, with the Palace ultras doing their thing, but being informed that “we’re Leeds United, we don’t need a drum”.
From the start Palace’s lively forwards seemed to trouble our defence, which seemed to be caught out a couple of times by long balls down the wing. Perhaps Marsch’s new system of having the wingers playing slightly inside forces the full-backs to get forward more to create width, and this can leave us vulnerable to counter-attacks down the flanks.
It was one such move that led to the best chance of the half. Ayew got free down the Palace right and sent over a very dangerous cross towards Mateta at the far post, where Llorente saved the day by stretching to get a slight touch and ensured that Mateta couldn’t get a clean strike on goal. The Palace man couldn’t react in time and the ball bounced off his leg and went wide.
The home side looked the more threatening throughout, but Llorente made another vital clearance when the ball was lifted over Meslier, though the Frenchman’s excellent positioning saved us on a couple of other occasions. At the other end Harrison and Dallas had a few shots blocked from distance, and Cooper sent a header straight into the arms of Guaita.
As half-time approached the game got a little bit feisty. Ayling and Zaha had been having a good battle since the start, and Zaha spent quite a bit of time on the floor, claiming he should have got a few more free-kicks than he actually did.
And the Palace bench got animated when the fourth official intervened to tell the ref we should have a free-kick as Palace broke away. But it’s hard to see why they were complaining, as Zaha had clearly pushed Raphinha in the face, which was against the laws of the game when I last looked.
At half time Jesse Marsch made his first change, with Kock coming on for Klich. The Pole hadn’t done a lot wrong, but perhaps our head coach thought the back four needed a bit more protection after the chances Palace had been able to create. But the game continued in the same manner as before, with Palace looking the more threatening, and Leeds struggling to create chances as a few moves broke down thanks to passes going astray.
And the rather spiky nature of the game returned when James raced over to block a clearance from Andersen and got there just after the ball had gone. After several players from both sides rushed over to get involved James was booked for the foul and Andersen for his reaction. The yellow card might have played a part in James being substituted a few minutes later, but he had struggled to make an impact in the centre forward position.
It was a bit more of a surprise that Greenwood was the young man sent on to take his place, rather than Gelhardt. Leeds still struggled to break down the Palace defence, and Gelhardt was finally sent on 15 minutes later in place of Rodrigo. Joffy did manage to create one chance cutting in from the right, but sent his shot straight at Guaita.
It was still the home side who were creating the better chances. Zaha cut in from the left and made space for a shot between a couple of defenders, but Meslier got down to save it and then cling onto the ball to prevent Ayew from getting to the rebound. And Gallagher sent a volley just over the bar from the edge of the area, but Llorente might have been able to block the shot had it been any lower.
But their best chance came after Llorente had to deal with an awkward high ball and could only head it out to Schlupp, who found Zaha in plenty of space on the Palace left. Zaha cut inside and forced Meslier into a save with his legs, the Frenchman then getting up in time to repeat the save when the rebound when back to Zaha for another go.
Much as we needed to take all three points, I started to hope for the final whistle, as Palace continued to threaten and looked the far more likely of the two sides to win the game. Gallagher shot straight at Meslier from a good position and a shot from Zaha took a deflection but thankfully looped just over the bar.
And after Palace had a couple more shots blocked time ran out and we had to settle for a draw. Not quite what we needed after Burnley had ramped up the pressure with a couple of wins after sacking Shaun Dyche, but the best result we could realistically have hoped for the way the game went. At least we are still five points clear of Everton, but there are a few tense days to come before this season is through.
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