Jesse Marsch on 'incredible' Joe Gelhardt skill and anti-board chants during big Leeds United draw

Jesse Marsch said he didn't hear Marcelo Bielsa's name or anti-board messages chanted during a 1-1 draw with Brighton that keeps Leeds United's survival hopes alive.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 15th May 2022, 5:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th May 2022, 5:33 pm

The American watched his side go a goal down in a desperately poor first half performance before a drastic improvement helped them stay in the game in the second half long enough to find an equaliser. Joe Gelhardt's skill and Pascal Struijk's stoppage time header sealed a point that took Leeds out of the drop zone and above Burnley, who earlier lost to Spurs. The Clarets have a game in hand on Thursday night at Aston Villa but Leeds' result has ensured the fight will go into the very last game next Sunday.

Had Struijk not headed home the late chance, the atmosphere would likely have been very different at Elland Road. During the second half fans at each end of the ground were heard chanting against owner Andrea Radrizzani and singing Marsch's predecessor's name, before calls for the board to be sacked reverberated around the stadium. But the equaliser ensured the team were applauded and serenaded from the field at the end of their final home game of the season.

Marsch insisted he was so focused on the game that he did not hear any of the discontent in the stands.

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"I didn’t hear any of that, I was focused on the match," said the head coach.

"The fans pushed us really well and helped us get the [draw]. That’s what we need. [The equaliser] was important, I was thinking about how to arrange things or make sure we were ready to find the next one. Good for our fans to feel that and for our team to get momentum for the last match."

Leeds could have made life easier for themselves had they taken an early lead through Gelhardt, but his goal-bound shot from point-blank range hit Liam Cooper in the face and Brighton survived. The Seagulls were in the ascendancy after that and Danny Welbeck's 21st-minute goal piled pressure on the hosts.

"The start we had, with the chance that Joffy has that hits Coops in the face is a little bit of how we feel right now - we have to fight for everything and nothing comes easy," said Marsch.

BIG POINT - Jesse Marsch's Leeds United fought back to take a point against Brighton that lifted them out of the relegation zone above Burnley going into the final week of the season. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"We weren’t good enough at the start, once we went down we came into the match more and were more compact. We were a little bit unlucky not to come away with more. I asked myself why we weren’t good enough in the first half but the situation and the stress has a lot to do with it. We will manage it for next week."

At half-time Marsch, having told his players how to improve tactically, sensed that his players were lacking belief in their ability to turn things around and told them to remove all doubt.

"[The half time message was] compactness against the ball, eliminating them running into the space in our box on the flanks and playing cut-back crosses, to try and adjust our pressing to win more balls and get into the attacking part of the field. I could see on their faces we weren't 100 per cent believing we can do it. The last thing I said was we have to have zero doubts and push and in the end I think they did that really well, they emptied their tanks and invested so much to get that point - which could wind up being massive. We seized our moment and put ourselves into a great position for the last match."

Leeds' big moment didn't come until the 92nd minute but when it did Elland Road erupted. Gelhardt got on the ball near the touchline, jinked one way to put a defender on his backside, dinked it over him and then lobbed to the back post where Struijk was waiting to nod past Rob Sanchez.

"It was a very special play, really incredible," said Marsch.

"Joffy grew into the game, we need him and it’s great to see him give a confident performance. We were on empty and, with where we are with the roster, a lot of guys had to play a lot of minutes, they gave everything they had. I told them give everything and put your hand up when you’re done. The resolve, the mentality makes the group special."