Leeds United: Monk defends Cooper over alleged stamp

Reading players surround referee Keith Stroud after Liam Cooper caught Reece Oxford in the face with a boot.
Reading players surround referee Keith Stroud after Liam Cooper caught Reece Oxford in the face with a boot.
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Leeds United head coach Garry Monk spoke out in defence of Liam Cooper as the centre-back waited to learn if he would be charged over an alleged stamp in yesterday’s 1-0 defeat to Reading.

Cooper is facing a possible suspension after catching Reading substitute Reece Oxford in the face with a boot in the closing stages of a tense Championship game at the Madejski Stadium.

Liam Cooper.

Liam Cooper.

Cooper trod on Oxford on the edge of Reading’s box as Jaap Stam’s side defended a corner but referee Keith Stroud issued no punishment after speaking with one of his assistants.

The Football Association are due to receive Stroud’s match report tomorrow morning and the governing body could also look into a claim that Reading defender Tyler Blackett struck United forward Chris Wood with an elbow in the first half.

Cooper and Blackett are likely to be hit with lengthy bans if the FA decides to pursue the incidents.

Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings received a five-match suspension last month after being found guilty of stamping on the head of Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford. Ibrahimovic was also banned for three matches following an elbow on Mings in the same match.

Monk insisted he had not seen either incident yesterday but said he was confident Cooper’s clash with Oxford had been “an accident”, saying Cooper was “not that type of lad.”

“I didn’t see it but I got told about it afterwards,” Monk said. “You know as well as me that Liam’s 100 per cent not that type of lad. He’s not in any way that type of player.

“With my opinion of Liam, it’ll definitely be an accident and one that he didn’t mean to do. He’s 100 per cent not like that.”

Asked about Wood’s claim that he had been elbowed by Blackett, Monk said: “I saw him go down but I didn’t see the challenge. If it was, it was. I can’t really comment.”

Cooper started for the second game running yesterday, preferred again to Pontus Jansson, who declared himself unfit on the morning of the match with a hamstring strain.

Monk revealed that he had chosen to start Cooper alongside Kyle Bartley before the problem with Jansson’s fitness emerged, maintaining an unchanged line-up on the back of a 2-0 victory over Brighton before the international break.

Monk caused a surprise by dropping Jansson against Brighton and replacing him with Cooper. United’s head coach refused to explain his reasons or to say whether Jansson’s omission was a disciplinary matter.

The 25-year-old, who featured for Sweden in a World Cup qualifier during the international break, made the trip to the Madejski Stadium but sat in the stands as a first-half goal from Yann Kermorgant ended Leeds’ seven-match unbeaten run.

“He was due to be on the bench,” Monk said. “He ruled himself out and said his hamstring felt a little bit tight. We’ll be assessing him and all the players to make our judgements ready for the game on Tuesday (at Brentford).

“The starting 11 was the same as it was against Brighton. They deserved that and they’ve been training very well since then. It was a fantastic performance and they’d earned the right to start the next game. That was the decision behind it.”

Without Jansson, Monk’s bench at the Madejski Stadium included no defenders but right-back Luke Ayling is returning from a two-match ban for Tuesday night’s visit to Griffin Park.

The latter stages of yesterday’s defeat, which saw Leeds drop behind Reading into fifth in the Championship table, were also marred by bottles thrown from the away end towards Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.