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Leeds go down to clinical Man City in crucial game
Sunday, 1st May 2022 08:16 by Tim Whelan

On the balance of play we didn’t deserve to lose this game by a four goal margin, but our familiar failings when defending set pieces and a few missed chances meant that we suffered another big defeat at the hands of Manchester City.

Earlier in the afternoon it looked likely that we were going to get some very welcome news from Vicarage Road, with Watford leading Burnley for a long period of their game, but Burnley’s two late goals had me swearing at my phone as the final score came through. That made it all the more important that we picked up something from this game.

With this match coming between the two legs of City’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, we could always hope that they might make a few changes, and they made five in all, with Kevin De Bruyne and Bernado Silva starting on the bench. But as welcome as that was, there were plenty of others in their squad who could do us significant damage.

Our own team news wasn’t so good, with captain Cooper sustaining an injury in the warm up. And it was a bit of a surprise that Koch and Struijk both came in, while Llorente was dropped to the bench. And Marsch tried a new formation, with Ayling moving inside as one of three central defenders, while Dallas operated at right back. James was taken out of the attack and it was Rodrigo’s turn to have a go at being centre forward.

In the first few minutes it looked like City were going to enjoy most of the possession, while we would have trouble getting out of our own penalty area. But we would have the first chance of the came after a slip from Cancelo allowed Rodrigo to race down the left, with Raphinha charging through unchallenged in the centre.

But Rodrigo took too long to deliver the cross, and by the time he did five City defenders had raced back in the style that Guardiola learned from Bielsa, and were able to block the danger. The way the rest of the match unfolded, we really needed that chance to be converted. Oh for what might have been.

We were soon to regret that miss as City took the lead in the unlucky 13th. minute. Stuart Dallas was penalised for a tackle, and the replays showed that they shouldn’t have got the free-kick, as Dallas did get a slight touch on the ball. But as the delivery came in, Rodri was allowed to get between our defenders as nobody picked up his run, and he was able to guide the ball into the corner of the net with a neat header.

After this setback we managed to put City under a bit of pressure, and the best chance during that spell fell to Firpo, but he lashed his shot over the bar from the edge of the area. At the other end Ayling’s slip presented City with a good chance, but Strujk spared his blushes by getting back to block the shot from Sterling.

There was a stoppage after a clash of heads between Koch and Laporte, but a far more serious injury occurred when Dallas made a rash challenge on Grealish, with Grealish going into Dallas’ standing leg and bending his knee with full force.Dallas was stretchered off in a lot of pain and the latest is that he has had a scan and it ‘doesn’t look good’.

He has played in every single Premier League game since our return to the top division, but he will miss the next one, and he is likely to be out for the rest of the season and the start of the next. James came on, but with Raphinha dropping to right-back and therefore negating our attacking threat, rather than moving Ayling to right-back and reverting to a back four.

We could be reasonably happy with our work in the first half, but our chances of getting back into the game were dealt a blow by City’s second goal. It came from a corner that resulted from Firpo’s reluctance to make a risky tackle when he was on a yellow card. It was swung over to beyond the far post, and as Dias headed it back I thought we had enough defenders in place to deal with it. But Struijk allowed Ake to nip in front of him to score from close range.

With Firpo clearly struggling Gelhardt was brought on in his place to give us a bit more oomph up front, with Harrison trying his luck at being a wing-back on the left. But our best chance since the opening minutes came down the other flank, as Raphinha cut inside past a couple of defenders, but Laporte was able to block his shot and it spun over the bar.

And as we kept going forward in the hope of pulling a goal back and forcing an exciting finish, City broke away and killed off our chances with a third goal. Foden sent an excellent through ball to Jesus, who controlled the ball with his first touch and shot past Meslier with his second. It was close to being offiside, and though I was shouting for VAR to intervene, the almighty was just about on, so the goal stood.

It was all getting a bit too much for some of our younger fans in the East stand. The club had handed out pieces of paper for them to make a yellow, white and blue display before kick-off, but they must have wished they hadn’t when the family stand began to throw them on the pitch. Which was wrong, but not quite worthy of the condemnation heaped upon them by the Sky commentary team. It was only paper, guys.

Back on the field Greenwood came on for Klich, and we twice came close to getting a consolation goal. James went round Ederson bus saw his shot cleared off the line by Cancelo, then Gelhardt had a shot from a promising position but sent it too close to Ederson, who was able to block it with his legs.

So it was rather cruel that it was City who scored the fourth goal of the game, right at the end. Sterling fell over rather theatrically in the box after a push from Ayling, and it’s possible the defence switched off a little while they looked at the referee. But while he was making up his mind the ball came to Fernandinho, who hammered the ball past Meslier with the aid of a slight deflection off Struijk.

The final scoreline of 4-0 was rather cruel on Leeds, as it was no reflection of the balance of play during the game, but it drops us further into trouble in the squeaky bum phase of the season. Burnley are now above us and although Everton are four points below, they now have two games in hand. It would be very very handy if they were to lose their game against Chelsea later today.


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