Leeds United 2 (Roberts 27, Bamford 90+5)
Brentford 2 (Baptiste 54, Canos 61)
Well, how do you sum that one up? I’ve just watched the end of the Grand Prix and I’m not sure which was more chaotic, that or the Leeds game! Leeds should have had this game in the bag but we let it slip away. OK, the late-late Bamford show salvaged a point at the death which was the least we deserved, but you have to think we needed more and should’ve, could’ve got all three. Hopefully, when we look back at the season next May, this will not be a crucial game, by then we can only hope we have amassed enough points not to be bothered by the odd few lost here and there. For the moment though, this has to be seen as two points given away even though, with seconds left, it seemed we’d squandered all three!
Leeds appeared to have weathered the minor storm that Brentford blew up in the early stages, even getting over the early loss of Liam Cooper, the latest in far too many injuries we are suffering this campaign. There had been wholesale changes in positions when it was Jack Harrison who surprisingly replaced Coops despite Charlie Cresswell already seeming warm enough to be trotting up and down the touchline in his shorts! It seems there was never any intention of Bielsa replacing like with like though and Harrison seemed to be a second choice not for Cresswell but for the already stripped Matty Klich! I’ll never understand how the great man’s mind works but it continues to look to me that he places seniority of players above all else and would rather have his most experienced troops in the trenches not his reserves!
It wasn’t a problem anyway as Leeds were deservedly in the lead before the half-hour; a lovely move started by the ever-improving Tyler Roberts with a clever tackle in the centre circle and finished by him with a slide and a stretch to connect with Raphinha’s low ball to guide it past the Bees’ keeper. Maybe it would have been the comfortable win I was expecting from this game had Luke Ayling’s header shortly after found the net and not the big hands of the acrobatic Alvaro Fernandez. It looked like we might get a cricket score at that point especially seeing as the Bees were missing their influential striker Ivan Toney who recorded a positive Covid test ahead of the game.
No one could have foreseen how Leeds would crumble in the space of seven dire second-half minutes, but crumble we did. The fact that Kalvin Phillips had been injured but was still on the pitch while Matty Klich was hurriedly readying himself to come on for the second time this afternoon didn’t help as Brentford made progress down their left-wing, but Leeds had several chances to clear their lines. Rico Henry sat Stuart Dallas on his backside first and then wrong-footed Luke Ayling before sending a low ball back towards the edge of the Leeds area. Tyler Roberts then looked favourite to swing a boot and clear the danger but, for some reason known only to Tyler, he dummied to clear, no doubt thinking it would put Baptise off. Instead, the ball merely ran onto Baptiste and, although the Brentford man completely shanked his shot, it was still good enough to perplex Illan Meslier and it crept inside the left post. It was a shocking goal to concede and the shock seemed to paralyse Leeds’ players for the next few minutes, not to mention the silencing effect it had on the crowd.
Canos should then have put the Bees in the lead as he somehow contrived to put a back post header past the post in much the same way we saw Benteke do earlier in the week but it was only a temporary let-off as the Bees, buoyed by sniffing the scent of three points, then turned into Barcelona for a few seconds! Firpo and Forshaw got themselves in a pickle, giving the ball away on the Brentford right, and from that point, we were all over the place again as Brentford moved the ball quickly with four sharp passes to bamboozle the Leeds defence and get Canos free in our box to fire home from the corner of our six-yard area. There was too much ball-watching going on for me but a charitable person would maintain it was a clever goal by the visitors.
From looking comfortable with a one-goal lead and bossing the game Leeds were suddenly behind and looking at the possibility of losing a game most of us had down as a home win banker, or as much as any EPL game can be at least. Having conceded so few goals since the Man United and Liverpool early-season maulings, the defence suddenly looked very porous. Firpo was again all over the place and Canos far too easily outwitted Diego Llorente.
Leeds finally got Klich onto the pitch and we all hope Kalvin’s injury, and Cooper’s for that matter, are not serious. It didn’t look very hopeful though and Leeds were giving a performance that looked very much like a Duracell Bunny that was finally running out of juice! Even Raphinha seemed at a loss as to what had just happened and was uncharacteristically loose with his passing. Our old failings of crosses being hit way over the box and shots raining into the stands were back with a vengeance while the Liner’s flag arm must be in tatters tonight with Dan James constantly being caught offside. It didn’t look good and the thought of losing this game to a patently poor and weakened Brentford, when we all thought we were steaming up to 11th in the table, was weighing heavily on a stunned Elland Road crowd. Enter Patrick Bamford!
Bamford replaced the hapless Firpo in the 68th minute and at least that got the crowd going again, although by his own admission, Paddy looked pretty rusty and didn’t add much to the cause until we moved into the last of the five added minutes. It was death or glory now and eventually, Illan Meslier got the signal he was seeking to go forward and maybe his bright orange, honey-coloured kit was something of a distraction for the Bees. Finally, Raphinha found a perfect corner in his locker and a touch off the head of Luke Ayling glanced the ball onto Patrick Bamford who instinctively stuck out a knee to rocket the ball in off the underside of the bar. And breathe!
For me, the last gasp equaliser has given us more than a point. Coming on the back of the late winner against Palace, it has further cemented that belief that all is never lost until that final whistle and, at the end of the day, five points from the three games this week has left us six points clear of the bottom three and with a degree of momentum to carry into the Chelsea game next week and those other tough-looking games as we close out the year. With Bamford and Ayling back we now have some options too and, as we saw today, the possibility of changing things around from the bench. Maybe I’m still not convinced about the Great One’s mass changes today though, for me, I still cannot fathom what would have been wrong with bringing Charlie Cresswell on for Coops! But that’s maybe why I was an accountant and not a footy manager!
Leeds United Brentford
Possession 63% 37%
Shots 13 9
On Target 6 3
Corners 5 1
Fouls Committed 11 9