Fulham 2 (Palhinha 21, Solomon 56)
Leeds Utd 0
28th February 2023, FA Cup 5th Round.
Leeds are out of the FA Cup after another hugely frustrating trip to the Capital; it’s usually Arsenal that ends our cup run down there but this time it was Fulham.
A much changed Fulham side took on a strong Leeds side and won the game with two sublime strikes and I have to say the Cottagers looked a very good side; always quick with the ball, accurate with their passing, eager to find space and, of course, deadly with their long-distance shots.
For Leeds, it was totally the opposite, we were slow and ponderous going forward, passes too often went astray and, too often our shots were weak and off-target. Apart from that, and this will seem a strange comment in the circumstances, we played quite well!
It would be easy to suggest Leeds were unlucky; we had two goals disallowed for example, one correctly for a clear offside but one for a very soft looking foul when McKennie apparently shoved an opponent in the area before heading at goal from a Marc Roca corner. Rodak saved the header but Georginio Rutter was on hand to poke the spilled ball into the net. Whether the contact was enough to send Harry Wilson spiraling into orbit, I’m not sure, but the referee bought it and it was never going to be overturned. I’m not sure McKennie needed to make any contact with Wilson and maybe he’ll learn something from it. It was maybe unlucky that a Rutter header cannoned back off the foot of a post too but Leeds had plenty of other opportunities to turn good openings into shots on goal but patently failed to do it often enough or well enough. 16 shots were attempted of which only six were in the direction of the eight yards between the posts or the eight feet under the crossbar. It’s been an issue for years with Leeds and it’s not good enough finishing for the Premier League or, in this case, the cup. Contrast that with the measly seven goal attempts from Fulham; three hit the target and two of those rippled our net. I have a feeling from comments made by Javi Gracia post-match that shooting practice will be a priority before we travel back to London at the weekend. I for one am sick and tired of watching our players pull shots wide of the posts when the opposition always seems unable to miss!
So luck maybe played a small part, but it was specific failings on our part that cost us our place in the quarter-finals. The first Fulham goal for example came directly from a woeful and frankly unacceptable hospital pass by Tyler Adams to Marc Roca. Roca clearly wasn’t expecting it and so Palhinha easily robbed him and then struck an incredible curling shot past Meslier. Yes, it was a terrific shot, a fabulous example of striking a football, but he should never have had the opportunity in the first place.
It wasn’t the only pass that went astray either, time and time again we failed to complete simple passes or fashion a decent final ball. That little bit of extra quality we needed at crucial times was never there whereas Fulham hardly put a foot wrong all night despite Leeds often looking the more adventurous side.
Leeds were not miles behind Fulham tonight, but man for man, the Londoners just seemed to have that little bit of quality we lacked. In many ways it was the story of our season, the stats were in our favour but the result wasn’t but, I repeat, that’s not been about bad luck it’s been about poor technique in so many areas of the game.
We just have to become more efficient, more clinical, we have to start making our undoubted effort count by finding the net more often and by tightening up that passing. We are not miles away from being a decent side, many of us have said this all season, but we continually let ourselves down.
At the end of the day it was another London trip that went pear-shaped; we now have to try to make sure we don’t repeat the disappointment at the weekend. We beat Chelsea 3 – 0 earlier this season, a result that perhaps we can now see was more about how poor Chelsea can be at times. At our best, there is no doubt we can repeat that result but if we are not totally on our game, if we can’t hit the target, if we can’t find those final balls, if we can’t make simple passes count, it won’t happen. Come on Leeds let’s get our act together.
Fulham Leeds U
Possession 54% 46%
Shots 7 16
On Target 3 6
Corners 4 2
Fouls 6 9