Leeds United benefit from double boost with hope raised of final day relief at Brentford

Only time will tell whether a point will be enough.

By Lee Sobot
Monday, 16th May 2022, 11:30 am

But, in the end, there was a good argument to suggest that Leeds United deserved three against Brighton and, in any case, the second-half response stands the Whites in good stead for the final day at Brentford.

It was difficult to have huge amounts of confidence in United’s chances approaching Sunday’s final home game of the season against the flying Seagulls at Elland Road.

The two teams were in completely opposite veins of form, the Whites having lost their last three and with just one victory in their last six games.

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MORE LIKE IT: Leeds United looked much better with Joe Gelhardt, centre, playing a full game upfront and with Brazilian international Raphinha, right, on the actual wing as opposed to at right back. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

A ninth-placed Brighton side arrived at Elland Road having won four of their last six, putting Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolves and Manchester United to the sword during that run, and their only defeat in seven games coming at Manchester City.

This was most definitely not a team on the beach yet Leeds would have been left sick to the stomach had they not netted through Pascal Struijk’s dramatic 92nd-minute equaliser, given the number of chances either squandered or saved.

The first big one of those chances arrived in just the second minute when Joe Gelhardt’s hooked effort was cleared off the line by his own team-mate as the shot hit Liam Cooper in the face.

That was just pure unlucky.

Then came a steady flow of Seagulls chances and the way in which Graham Potter’s outfit continually got in down United’s left-hand side was a particular worry.

Eventually, their pressure told as Danny Welbeck fired them into a 22nd-minute lead yet United should have gone ahead seconds earlier and there was nothing unlucky about Rodrigo taking too long to play in Jack Harrison as the Whites poured forward.

The Spaniard was instead dispossessed and, moments later, Brighton were ahead after bad defending by Diego Llorente allowed Welbeck the chance to fire past Illan Meslier.

The Seagulls then had chances to add to their lead and the forecast was looking particularly grim for the Whites as tensions and frustrations grew inside Elland Road.

But Leeds ultimately deserved at least a point for their response and 24-year-old Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez, who is now a full Spain international, was a big reason why United left with only one and not three.

The Spaniard produced two particularly spectacular saves to keep out first a Mateusz Klich drive towards the end of the first half and then a superb Raphinha freekick in the 66th.

Another stop to keep out a Klich drive shortly afterwards was also pretty smart and his efforts looked to have bagged the Seagulls their latest victory in an impressive campaign as the Leeds response flattened out.

Brighton then missed an absolute sitter to make the points secure as Welbeck put a free header wide from just six yards out and that miss might prove huge in United’s season.

Instead of being 2-0 down, Leeds then found themselves all square and out of the drop zone just six minutes later after brilliant work from Joe Gelhardt left Struijk with a close-range header to send Elland Road wild.

Even then there were chances for the Whites to bag a winner and Jesse Marsch’s side served up 19 attempts compared to 15 from the visitors, both sides with five on target apiece.

Essentially, Leeds just looked altogether improved via the double boost of star winger Raphinha actually playing as a winger and not a right-back and with Gelhardt finally given a full shift and inspirational in sealing a point.

That point might still have proved too little too late if Burnley and Everton take what they need from their final two games but both sides have hard fixtures to finish with.

Burnley are away at Aston Villa before hosting Newcastle United whilst Everton face Crystal Palace at Goodison Park before signing off at Arsenal.

Leeds have a hard ending themselves away at Brentford.

Yet something akin to Saturday’s response against Brighton would greatly improve the chances of sealing a last-day win at the Bees and United’s destiny will be back in their own hands if Burnley are beaten in Thursday night’s clash at Aston Villa.

Over to you Mr Gerrard.