Brentford 1 (Canos 78)
Leeds Utd 2 (Raphinha pen 56, Harrison 90+4)
Oh boy oh boy, Leeds United, you don’t half put us through it don’t you? It is well known that when the really big occasions come to pass for Leeds, we often can’t turn them to our own advantage; too often we, well, not to put too fine a point on it, balls things up! Well, for once, and in possibly the most important game since that legendary Bristol Rovers game, we came through with flying colours, albeit hundreds of thousands of Leeds fans all over the world will tonight be resting their nerves and voice boxes!
With Everton removing themselves from the race during the week, the task for Leeds was now simple; record a better result than Burnley. If Burnley lost, a draw would do, if Burnley drew then a win would be necessary. Oh, and if Burnley won… forget it and get ready for that trip to Millwall next season! Hence, it was a case of us at the game watching with only one eye while keeping the other glued to a mobile phone over the shoulder of the bloke in front!
In the early stages, Leeds looked workmanlike and determined while Brentford probably looked the silkier footballers but there was just something about the Bees' approach to this game that gave encouragement. Eriksen was good, but he wasn’t brilliant while the often deadly Mbeumo pulled an early shot wide that might, on another day have put this game on a very different footing. As it was, we were on our toes as Joffy Gelhardt appeared to have given us a priceless lead in the 20th minute as he finished in typical Joffy style, rasping a shot into the roof of the net after a clever through ball from Jack Harrison. In the stadium confusion reigned as, while we were celebrating this apparent lead, news came through that Newcastle had won a penalty up at Turf Moor. Then the Brentford fans were going berserk as VAR ruled Joffy’s ‘goal’ offside; replays would show he was an armpit away from another memorable match contribution. But then a huge roar came from the Leeds fans as that Callum Wilson penalty hit the back of the net in Lancashire. Leeds had their noses ahead in this two-horse race to salvation. That’s how it was at the break; Burnley losing and Leeds sitting on the draw that would give us the point we needed.
In the second half, the game continued to be a fairly even affair – although still, I felt that Brentford were probably more concerned to ensure they were going on holiday next week and not in a hospital having an injury seen to, they were just a little lightweight I thought. Not so Leeds though, we were going at it hammer and tongue to try to put further distance between the Clarets and ourselves. In the 56th minute, Bees keeper David Raya, under pressure from the ever aggressive Joffy Gelhardt, shanked a clearance too close to Raphinha and the Brazilian was able to stretch and get a boot to the ball. Then he slalomed past Raya only to be brought down. Penalty Leeds! I have to say only about half of the Leeds fans in the stadium watched as Raphinha cleverly sent Raya the wrong way to give us that priceless lead… many were facing the back of the stand while others were crying their nervous eyes out!
Four minutes later and another Mexican wave of exuberance swept through the ranks of the Leeds fans as news filtered through of a second Toon goal! That serene feeling didn’t last long though as soon we were hearing of a Burnley comeback goal. They were now 1 – 2 down but we still led too. That situation ended minutes later though as the first defensive lapse of the day from Leeds allowed Canos to ghost in at the back post to lob an easy header over Meslier. We still had the draw that would suffice but Burnley were now a goal away, either here or at Turf Moor, from making this a typical Leeds failure day and not a celebration.
It stayed like that until the final seconds so those last few minutes took ages and ages but with Canos picking up a second yellow card and Brentford running out of subs they were soon under the cosh with only nine men on the pitch. Leeds, truth be told, made heavy work of those final minutes, no doubt as nerves set in, but then suddenly Jack Harrison was swinging a boot at the ball and that tell-tale ripple of the net lifted the roof off our stand. Once again, replays would show a telling touch of a defender's boot diverting the ball an extra foot or so towards the corner and out of Raya’s reach. We’d not had much help from Lady Luck all season but she had turned up today! We must be safe now!
And we were, hairy arsed grown men were in tears again all around while the youngsters, no nerves for them seemingly, went mental! Finally, in this season when so much had gone wrong, much of our own making, we’d carried out an almost flawless, if still nervy, game plan, and the dream was still alive. The dream of seeing Leeds become a regular fixture on the Premier League stage.
The stats tell the story of the game quite well, there wasn’t much between the teams – the Bees were probably below par but Leeds were probably at their best, certainly the best we’ve seen for some while. We needed the breaks, but, as they say, work hard enough and the breaks will go for you.
Now the real work begins at Leeds – we must heed all the many lessons we’ve learned and not commit the same errors that almost cost us dearly in this campaign. We need significant investment to support this squad, and more so if we are to lose any of our real jewels. We need a bigger squad. We need to forget the ludicrous policy of preferring seniority playing out of position to youth – even when some of our youngsters are clearly ready to step in and play their part in their specialist positions. The work starts now.
For the fans though, lets’ celebrate a magnificent achievement on this winner takes all day! See you, next season folks!
Brentford Leeds U Possession 49% 51%
Shots 14 15
On Target 5 6
Corners 3 2
Fouls 11 13