Leeds Utd 1 (Struijk 90+2)
Brighton 1 (Welbeck 21)
We’re still alive folks… albeit, as we are doing with the season itself, we took it to the very end and had a good look down into the abyss! At the end of the day though, Leeds deserved their late leveller from Pascal Struijk purely on the strength of their second-half revival.
In the first half of this game, I have to say that Leeds didn’t look much better than they had done in the majority of the previous three games against those so-called big-six sides; Leeds’ play was frantic, frenetic and looked full of tension while Brighton looked a very classy outfit indeed – poised in possession, clever and well organised, befitting a side with some impressive scalps in recent weeks. It was no surprise to anyone when they took a 21st-minute lead. It was a simple little ball through the inside right channel that Diego Llorente should have dealt with but he was put under pressure by Welbeck and got himself in a right tangle, ending up scrambling on the turf while Welbeck coolly lifted the loose ball over Meslier. It was a classy finish but more dire defending from Llorente.
For all of our huffing and puffing throughout that first half and for all the silky smooth play from Brighton, there were not too many other moments of worry for Leeds although chances were equally as hard to come by for the home side, with the only moment of inspiration coming from a curling shot by Matty Klich that was pushed around the right post, Matty is due a goal so maybe he’s saving it for us until the 11th hour next week.
Leeds were better in the second half, the panic was replaced by more thought and slowly but surely the chances started to come. Raphinha tried to emulate James Ward-Prowse again with a curling 30-yard free kick that was only kept out by the fingertips of the keeper and the angle of post and bar. We’ve come up against some inspired goal-keeping this season just to make our weekly task even more difficult. Raphinha then just failed to direct a clever low left-wing cross by Rodrigo into the net, sliding in and sending it a couple of feet wide.
Leeds swapped Robin Koch for the oncoming Jamie Shackleton in the 68th minute and then, to a chorus of boos from many in the Leeds support, withdrew Matty Klich for Sam Greenwood and threw on Pascal Struijk for Junior Firpo who’d had a really good, strong running game, perhaps his best yet for us and showing that maybe, just maybe, there is a real player in there somewhere. The disgruntlement of a section of the fans was then made clear for all to hear as a brief chant of “Marcelo Bielsa” and then “Sack the Board” rang around a tension-filled Elland Road. It didn’t last long though before the whole of the Leeds support was united again as it was clear we were now throwing the kitchen sink at the wobbling Seagulls. Matty Klich had another good strike again well parried by the keeper as the pressure began to build in front of the Kop.
We had to wait until the 2nd minute of added time to grab the all-important goal but it felt like it was coming for some time before that with the players seemingly feeding off the frenzied pleading and urging of the fans. It was no surprise to me that Joffy Gelhardt was front and centre in the creation of the goal.
It started with a clever little dinked ball from Llorente to find Joffy on the right side of the area. He was somehow able to twist and turn as we’ve seen him do before on his rare moments on the pitch. This time he squeezed past a couple of defenders right on the byline with his typical never-give-up hustling, lifted the ball over a stray leg, and then cleverly knocked it up and over to the back post where it was the simplest of tasks for Pascal Struijk to rise and plant a firm header over the line. The keeper clawed it out but the power had taken it well over the line and Leeds had the lifeline we deserved.
We’d all watched nervously in the pub as Burnley only narrowly went down to Spurs in the early kick-off and then there was more joy for us as Brentford pulled off a 2 – 3 win at Goodison. It’s still just about a three-way battle to avoid that final relegation spot.
Regardless of how the midweek results go, we now know that we have taken the fight to the final day and our trip to Brentford. By then we may know that a win will keep us up, or we may have our phones to our ears as the minutes tick away knowing that we just have to match what Burnley does or maybe even Everton.
This final game was always going to be important to yours truly as it will mark the completion of the 92 again for me - not having been to the new Bees stadium yet; now it takes on all sorts of new importance! May the best team win… but let’s pray it’s ours!
Possession 50% 50%
Shots 19 15
On Target 5 6
Corners 8 1
Fouls 16 8