Leeds United squad jets out to Spain with a ‘fly in its ear’ over discipline issues

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THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN will fly with his squad to a training camp in Spain today with discipline again at the forefront of his mind after an agonisingly and costly defeat to Millwall.

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Red-carded Liam Cooper. PIC: Tony Johnson

Red-carded Liam Cooper. PIC: Tony Johnson

United will spend five days in the Spanish city of Murcia but are burdened with fresh concerns after a remarkable game against Millwall on Saturday ended in a 4-3 defeat and two more suspensions.

Leeds, despite being down to 10 men after Liam Cooper’s first-half red card, were within minutes of a 3-2 victory when Millwall struck twice in quick succession to claim their first win at Elland Road in almost eight years.

Cooper’s dismissal was his second of the season, following on from his sending-off at Cardiff City in September, and a straight red card for a 37th-minute foul on Millwall midfielder George Saville will lead to a four-match suspension from the Football Association today. Christiansen’s selection issues worsened in the closing minutes of the match when Kalvin Phillips was booked for kicking the ball away after seeing a free-kick awarded against Leeds. His 10th yellow card of the season earned him an immediate two-game ban, leaving United without four players through suspension.

Christiansen, who has seen Cooper, Eunan O’Kane and Samuel Saiz incur red cards in United’s last three fixtures, attempted to tackle the issue of discipline with his players last week but Cooper’s dismissal and the result that followed intensified his frustration.

Frustrated 'Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen gets at telling off from referee David Coote. PIC: Tony Johnson

Frustrated 'Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen gets at telling off from referee David Coote. PIC: Tony Johnson

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United’s head coach will put his squad through double training sessions in Murcia having been left with a free week following the rearrangement of United’s next Championship game at Hull City which takes place a week tomorrow.

Leeds are scheduled to remain in Spain until Friday and asked what required most work this week, Christiansen said: “The discipline. Also, I believe that after the two good opportunities we had in the first half [falling to Pierre-Michel Lasogga] we lost possession of the ball. We went into the game that [Millwall] wanted with direct play and we didn’t take the second balls.

Suspension-threatened Leeds United midfielder, Kalvin Phillips fends off  Lions' Shaun Hutchinson. PIC: Tony Johnson

Suspension-threatened Leeds United midfielder, Kalvin Phillips fends off Lions' Shaun Hutchinson. PIC: Tony Johnson

“If we had taken the second balls and been a little bit more together, it would have been a game we could control and maintain a better result.

“I’m very disappointed and once again we go from this game without any points. There were many ups and downs, many emotions, but we can’t afford to lose the possibility to do something good in this league with the red cards. That must stop now.”

Leeds have incurred a total of six red cards this season and hold one of the highest tallies of yellows in the Championship.

Christiansen refused to defend Cooper, whose foul on Saville caused a touchline scuffle and led to Leeds assistant Julio Banuelos and Millwall assistant David Livermore being ordered from their dug-outs.

But the Leeds boss felt his side were harshly treated by referee David Coote. Coote booked three of United’s players while ordering off Cooper.

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Millwall received two cautions over the course of 90 dramatic minutes.

“All the fouls that we made was one yellow card,” he said. “When they made a foul, nothing happened. I don’t believe that we are judged in the same way but there is nothing we can do. We need to be even stronger and continue.”

Christiansen was also uncertain about Cooper’s foul, saying: “Red card, yellow card, it’s difficult for me to say one or another. If you ask me now I don’t know. The referee may have seen it very clearly and that’s why he showed it. But the referees also know the way to their pockets.”

Recent signing Laurens De Bock made his debut for United at left-back, a week after arriving from Club Brugge. A knock ruled fellow new arrival Adam Forshaw out of the clash with Millwall but the former Middlesbrough midfielder was due to make the trip to Spain in preparation for a possible debut at Hull next Tuesday.

Christiansen is planning to take a full squad abroad.

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