Leeds Utd 2 (Gnonto 27, Rodrigo 70)
West Ham 2 (Lucas Paqueta 45 pen, Scamacca 46)
4th January 2023, Premier League.
For me this was a must win; a game against an out of form side, a side like us perilously close to the relegation zone and in front of a raucous Elland Road crowd. It looked tailor-made for us to show that we are in a false position in the table. But, yet again, we couldn’t take the opportunity and almost gave the Hammers their own confidence boost by handing them their second goal.
It all looked so good when we carved through the Hammers' defence just before the half-hour mark. A throw-in on the right, Gnonto collected the ball and motored infield, played it short to Summerville and ‘Cree’ found a perfect pass threaded through for Willy to run onto and blast a left-footer past Fabianski. A terrific goal that should have settled us down but we couldn’t build on it.
There isn’t much we can say about the penalty decision right at the end of the first half, only that David Coote the referee on the pitch didn’t give it but the VAR deemed it a potential clear and obvious error. It was one of those soft affairs where “there was contact” but I doubt it was sufficient to topple Bowen like a rotten Christmas tree. David Coote was so weak all through the game that he was never going to stand firm on this one. These things do happen.
What shouldn’t happen is that we shouldn’t give the ball away cheaply in our own defensive third, but we did, seconds into the new half. Just as Liam Cooper did the other day against Man City, so today it was Brenden Aaronson. He tried to play a blocked pass back to Roca I think, but instead, it ran perfectly into the path of Scamacca who coolly found the bottom corner. Another shocking piece of self-destruction. We have to stop making these errors, they are a feature of all the struggling teams as we saw the previous night from Everton. You have to be more careful with the ball as in the Premier League mistakes are usually punished.
The game had been pretty even until that point but something then stirred in our loins and we began to press forward with more urgency. Jesse Marsch made changes that may have brought it about – sending on Harrison and Klich just after the hour mark for the hapless Aaronson and young Summerville who was only just back from an injury of course. Something did the trick and it was Harrison pushing the ball to Rodrigo for the Spaniard to run onto and rifle home. That ultimately won us a point that, overall, we probably deserved.
Chances came late in the game as Antonio cleared a Cooper header off the line and then Fabianski brilliantly got a hand to a stooping header from Rodrigo following another Cooper header but it was not to be.
The way the game panned out suggests to me that these two sides are pretty even in quality and guile and a draw was probably a fair result. The fact that we couldn’t take this opportunity to show that we are a better side than West Ham worries me. I fear we are now likely to be embroiled in a season-long battle with such teams as the Hammers, Wolves, Southampton, Everton, Bournemouth, and a few others, none of them looks likely to pull themselves clear and it looks impossible to predict results for any game between any of them. It might end up being a bit of a lottery, who gets the breaks and makes the fewest mistakes?
Upcoming games for Leeds are Villa and Brentford and neither of those looks easy. Then we face a resurgent Nottingham Forest who seem to finally be settling to their task. It would be easy to panic as it’s not clear to see where our needed points will come from – three of them should have been secured tonight if, as I thought, we were a better team than the Hammers. Now I’m not convinced we are. It’s going to be a nervy few months again folks. Let’s have a day out in Cardiff and see if the cup can cheer us up! We need something to smile about having seen Matty Klich wave us farewell this evening; the end of another era.
Leeds West Ham
Possession 63% 37%
Shots 14 15
On Target 6 2
Corners 8 1
Fouls 11 18