Leeds Utd 1 (Sinisterra 20)
Leicester City 1 (Vardy 80)
25th April 2023, Premier League.
This was a far more even game throughout compared with our previous three games. Leeds looked up for this one and tackles were flying in from everyone and we held a slender but vital lead for an hour. That was the good news! The bad news though was that we gave that lead up through another defensive error and other mistakes could easily have cost us the game. Just as costly at the other end though was an appalling final-minute miss from Patrick Bamford. The two extra points a last-minute winner would have given us might yet be the margin by which we fail to survive.
Inside ten minutes we thought we were behind when the ball was shoveled out towards Tielemans and he rifled an unstoppable shot into the top left bin. Salvation for that one came courtesy of VAR spotting that Boubakary Soumare was just offside when the ball hit him before he pushed it back to Tielemans. Maybe that shocked Leeds into life and for the rest of the half we did OK, certainly we looked up to the challenge – something that had hardly looked the case at times in the previous three games. Spurred on by a typically raucous Elland Road crowd the Leeds players flew at their opponents almost manically with a quick press and fierce tackling at times, tackling that earned bookings for Ayling and Rodrigo before the break.
Liam Cooper had played well at Fulham and often did well tonight too but his old tendency to make critical mistakes was also there. His first almost cost us straight after that Tielemans ‘goal’ was disallowed. Under no real pressure, he merely stabbed the ball straight at Maddison who immediately sent Iheanacho racing through the inside right channel and then set off towards the back post. By the time the ball was crossed, Maddison had got clear of McKennie, but just couldn’t stretch enough to direct the ball anywhere but past the left post. It was just another reminder though how mistakes in this league can be punished so quickly and we’d see it happen again later.
Leeds though did look positive and aggressive and in the 20th minute, Luis Sinisterra converted a wonderful goal. Jack Harrison weaved to and fro on the right after good interplay between Ayling and McKennie, spotted Sini at the back post, and scooped an inch-perfect cross over the defence and Sinisterra rose superbly to plant his header just inside the near post. It reminded me of Bielsaball!
The two sides continued to just about match each other for the rest of the half, Leicester having more of the ball but Leeds, operating on the break looking more dangerous than the Foxes. Half time: 1 – 0.
The second half saw Leeds start the brighter with numerous half chances and blocked shots in front of the Kop but then Leicester came much more into the game and Harvey Barnes almost squared things up when he tried to curl a typical effort into the top right corner only to miss by a foot or so. Once again it was worrying that Barnes had acres of space and time to set himself, another sign that our defensive frailties are always still lurking just under the surface. There were two more bookings for Leeds as both Liam Cooper and Marc Roca had their names taken for fairly agricultural-looking tackles. Leeds had used one substitute in the first half when Sinisterra limped off to be replaced by Crysencio Summerville and now Javi Gracia twisted again, bringing on Brenden Aaronson for Rodrigo; not a popular change for many Leeds fans in my hearing. Two minutes later and Leicester responded with two of their own – Jamie Vardy for Tete and Daka for Barnes. As so often in our recent history, it was one of the substitutes that did for us.
It started with another of those Cooper bloopers as he slid in trying to tackle Iheanacho. He got it all wrong though and Iheanacho was able to push the ball to Maddison despite pulling up with an injury. Maddison took a couple of touches before sliding the ball left to Jamie Vardy. It was another little cameo of how things go wrong for Leeds as we watched as Vardy sped clear of Luke Ayling and, first time, curled a low ball inside the far post. We remain defensively very fragile although we had hung on to that one goal lead for an hour until this latest calamity. It showed itself again only minutes later as Vardy had the ball in our net again. This time it was poor old Coops again making a hash of another tackle, this time missing Maddison with a lunge. The ball broke forward to Daka and there was Vardy on the blind side of Junior Firpo to take the pass from Daka and tap it into the empty net. Fortunately, Vardy had just got himself a yard ahead of Daka and was correctly ruled offside.
Leeds had one last push in the final few minutes, similar to how we finally came alive down at Craven Cottage once we got a goal back down there. But, now as then, our finishing let us down; something else that has been too wrong too often this season. Marc Roca met a right-wing corner perfectly with his head but thumped it straight at Iversen in the Foxes’ goal. It beat his hands but smacked him on the chin and a defender cleared up by hooking the ball off the line. Leeds recycled the ball a couple of times before Aaronson smashed a shot at goal from a tight angle that Iversen smothered around the post. Another corner came in from that Leeds right and this time Marc Roca again outjumped the defence to power another header towards goal but it drifted instead towards Patrick Bamford, free as a bird at the back post. Many fans near me were already shouting “Goal!” but, as we’ve seen him do far too often, Bamford got his feet and angles all wrong and somehow swept it wide of the post from three yards out. The two points that cost us, plus the one from him missing a penalty against Arsenal, may well be three points that would have saved our skins this season.
So, a battling point against a Leicester squad full of quality players who really have no right to be scrabbling about with us in a relegation battle. It’s hard to resist the thought though that Bamford’s late miss might prove very costly. On we go to Bournemouth on Sunday which is surely now must - win-at-all-costs territory. We’ll all be watching tomorrow night too when Forest take on Brighton and on Thursday night when Saints face Bournemouth and Everton host Newcastle. The picture might be much clearer as we all drive north and away from the Vitality on Sunday.
Leeds U Leicester
Possession 41% 59%
Shots 13 13
On Target 3 3
Corners 3 6
Fouls 14 15