If Steve McClaren was right and Leeds United’s penalty against Queens Park Rangers owed more to guesswork than judgement on the part of referee Peter Bankes, apologies from Elland Road will be slow in reaching him.
Bankes broke a record which had become a standing joke in Leeds by punishing QPR’s Toni Leistner for handball early in the second half of United’s 2-1 win today. Leeds went through 14 months, 418 days, 58 games and 5,273 minutes of competitive football without earning a penalty, a run which began after their 1-0 defeat to Reading in October 2017.
Pablo Hernandez stepped up on that occasion and was denied in injury-time by Reading’s Vito Mannone, starting one of the longest barren spells on record. Prior to Roofe’s finish against QPR, Hernandez was the last Leeds player to convert from the spot in a League Cup tie at Burnley in September of last year.
In the same period, United conceded 11 penalties and three this season, the most recent of which was saved by goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell at home to Reading last week.
Hernandez had wanted to take responsibility for the chance against QPR but Roofe clung onto the ball and duly beat Rangers keeper Joe Lumley with a firm finish to Lumley’s left.
Bielsa indicated that he had not nominated a specific taker before the match. “I saw them (Roofe and Hernandez) exchange words and I guess it was them talking about who was going to take the responsibility of taking the penalty,” Bielsa said.
“If you take into account the fact that it’s a long time since we last had a penalty, it’s a good thing to see that more than one player wanted to take responsibility.”
McClaren was unimpressed, claiming Bankes had not been in a good enough position to see any offence from Leistner clearly, and suggested the referee was swayed by the crowd behind Lumley’s net.
Bankes was also the man in black during QPR’s visit to Blackburn Rovers last month, a match in which Blackburn claimed a 1-0 victory with a last-gasp penalty.
“We had a good chat after the Blackburn game which we lost to a penalty we thought was very harsh,” McClaren said. “We’ll put a report in but you can’t change these things and you hope over the season they even themselves out.” Leeds know better than any club that swings-and-roundabouts is not an exact science.