|Rotherham United 1 v 1 Leeds United
Friday, 24th November 2023 Kick-off 20:00
Farke knows we should have buried Rotherham in the first half
Sunday, 26th Nov 2023 21:32 by Tim Whelan
It was an incredibly annoying game at Rotherham United on Friday night, as Leeds game away with only a draw after we seemed certain to win the game for most of the first half.
And Daniel Farke acknowledged this when he spoke to LUTV after the match. “The first emotion is definitely disappointment because we were that dominant in many periods it should be enough for three points. Performance wise fantastic first half but you have to bury the game, we had chances to bury it in the first half.”
Cree one-v-one, Kamara five yards out, Daniel James, Joel Piroe three chances, normally it's more than enough to bury the game. But if you're one time not switched on – we took too much risk on the halfway line in stoppage time. We enjoyed our dominance a bit too much I felt. Awareness and sharpness level was 99% not 100%, if you're not doing this, this can happen in this league.”
And Farke was also unhappy with the relentless schedule of the Championship, as we had to play this game so soon after some of the players were back from international duty. Rutter had been a doubt after picking up a knock while representing France’s under-21 side, but the only change to the starting line-up was the return of the much-maligned Junior Firpo in place of Sam Byram at left-back.
Leeds made a dream start to this game, taking the lead after seven minutes. Rutter curled an excellent ball into the path of Summerville, while our old boy Lee Peltier reminded us of his uselessness by stopping to appeal for offside. Which he would have been if it hadn’t been for Ayla in the centre playing him on by at least five yards.
Summerville accepted the invitation to race into the space behind Peltier, before cutting inside and curling an excellent shot just inside the far post. For most of the rest of the half we were to dominate possession, but we spent a lot of it passing around in our own half, and I was starting to find the game a little bit dull. OK, the opposition can’t score without the ball, but there are dangers in trying to sit on a 1-0 lead.
We did start to show a little bit of urgency as the half hour approached, but the attacks lacked a bit of our usual potency. And when we did break, we left it a bit too late to play the obvious ball to a player racing through unchallenged. One chance went when Rutter had run offside by the time Summerville took too long to play the killer ball.
Then Summerville himself had to slightly check his run in a similar position when the pass was similarly delayed, giving Johansson time to get out to make a fine save when Summerville tried to curl the ball round him. Against a team who work as hard as Rotherham, the passing needs to be a bit slicker to get through them.
Another chance went when Dan James showed once again that he doesn’t score when he’s forced a bit too wide, and shortly afterwards Kamara blasted into the side netting from a similar position. And Piroe had a couple of chances, but sent one shot too close to Johansson without the power to trouble him, and another over the bar when he attempted a difficult volley from a ball that didn’t quite drop low enough before he made contact.
Despite these missed chances it seemed inevitable that we would go on to win the game, until the hosts shocked us with an equaliser on the stroke of half time. Firpo’s critics will note that the move began when he lost the ball high up the field, but even then we missed several other chances to clear the ball. Cooper was always going to lose the foot race against their winger, but I thought Kamara was at fault when the cross came in.
The Finnish international just let the ball bounce off him without even attempting to lift his foot to control the direction of the ball. When the ball was played back into the area Ampadu was just too late to be able to make a tackle, and when Rodon did make a challenge the ball ran kindly for Odoffin, who was able to shoot past Meslier into the net.
Farke stormed off down the tunnel and may well have given this team a telling off as we came out for the second half looking a bit more focused. But the second half would be a lot more even, as Rotherham we clearly lifted by their goal, and the home fans started to get behind their team. And we could have gone on to lose this game, as Cooper had to race back for a goal-line clearance after Nombe’s shot had beaten Meslier.
Farke made a triple change on 70 minutes, with Firpo, Rutter and Kamara all going off , while Bamford, Gnonto, and Poveda took to the field. Rutter was presumably still feeling his midweek injury as I saw him holding his side three times after being challenged, and he hadn’t had his usual impact on the game since his early assist for our goal.
The changes showed that Farke was obviously going for the win, as we then had four attacking wide players on the field, though I’m not sure who was supposed to be playing left back. But it seemed to be working and Rotherham began to drop deeper to hold onto their point, leaving us to try to play through them. It was Gnonto’s turn to attempt a difficult volley and he sent that over the bar, and then came the most controversial moment of the game.
Peltier tackled James inside the area, and though he got the ball, his follow-through was high and left the Welshman on the ground in pain. With VAR that would probably have been a red card and a penalty, though of course there’s no guarantee that we’d have scored from the spot kick. Farke said afterwards “it was obvious to see, my feeling was the referee was close enough to see it”, but presumably the officials’ eyes were following the ball, so they didn’t spot the aftermath of the tackle.
James would eventually be forced off by this injury for Anthony to come on, and by then Cooper had felt a bit of a strain in his hamstring, meaning Struijk had to come on and test his fitness quite soon after his hernia operation. And it was Struijk who had our next clear chance, but he headed just wide from a corner. He’d be deadly from set pieces if he could send the ball in the right direction a bit more often.
Despite all the previous misses we thought that Anthony had won the game right at the end, only for the linesman to rule that Bamford had been offside when the initial cross came in. There is some doubt that he actually touched the ball, but I suppose you would have to say that he was still interfering with play. And that was about it, with five minutes of injury time not proving to be long enough for Leeds to carve out a winner.
After the game our manager said that “a point is never a bad result away in the Championship”, but really promotion contenders should be beating the bottom sides both at home and away. Thankfully Saturday’s results were pretty kind, as Southampton would have gone above us if it hadn’t been for Huddersfield’s late equaliser, and Ipswich continued to show signs of slipping with their defeat to West Brom.
And so the gap to the automatic promotion spots is down to seven points, but it’s incredibly frustrating that we haven’t narrowed this to five by not winning a game that should have been there for the taking. Let’s hope that our usual ruthlessness is back when we play Swansea on Wednesday night, and we’ve learned not to take things for granted when we get an early lead.
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