Leeds United transfer logic painfully undone in 32 minutes - Graham Smyth's Verdict on Everton draw

Leeds United's striker situation was not the only story of their 1-1 draw with Everton, but it was by far the biggest.
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This was a game Jesse Marsch and his players lost control of but wrestled back again. It was a game of needle and spite, played out in a raucous, almost feral atmosphere that felt dangerously close to the edge on occasion. This was a game that called for, but did not always get cool heads.

It was a game Leeds could easily have won, such were the chances they created, and a game they could have lost late on, had it not been for Illan Meslier.

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But it was just a game, just one game and when the discussion of Luis Sinisterra's goal, Everton's time wasting and the technical area dust-ups dies down, talk will once again, inevitably, turn to Leeds United, strikers and the 33 games still to come.

The club's pre-Everton rationale for not signing a striker was that they already had three very good ones, but by 8.32pm they were down to two.

CEO Angus Kinnear put forward the club's thinking in full with his programme notes. A forward line they consider superior to that boasted by the majority of their peers meant that only an exceptional addition would be considered and not, as he put it, a 'warm body.'

The logic was plainly not to everyone's taste before the game kicked off, with last season's near-miss still so fresh in minds, so for them it aged and soured badly within the space of just over half an hour. Rodrigo's collision with Jordan Pickford was innocuous enough but oh so costly, the Spainard's distress immediately apparent as he clutched at his shoulder. Leeds will point out that it was a freak accident and not something they could have anticipated, although freak accidents can and do happen, as the array of weird and not-so-wonderful injuries suffered by the club’s strikers over the past year has shown,

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And judging by the fact that Patrick Bamford was not the man to whom Jesse Marsch turned, Leeds still don't yet have two fully fit strikers.

EARLY BLOW - Rodrigo was helped from the field after a little more than 30 minutes after injurying his shoulder in Leeds United's 1-1 draw with Everton. Pic: Bruce RollinsonEARLY BLOW - Rodrigo was helped from the field after a little more than 30 minutes after injurying his shoulder in Leeds United's 1-1 draw with Everton. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
EARLY BLOW - Rodrigo was helped from the field after a little more than 30 minutes after injurying his shoulder in Leeds United's 1-1 draw with Everton. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Frank Lampard had his problems too. He was without Neal Maupay, Everton's attempts to register their new signing falling foul of the Bank Holiday.

Premier League rules state that players must be registered by noon on the last working day prior to a fixture and although the Toffees got their paperwork in on Friday, they missed the cut-off by a matter of hours.

Maupay, a £15m man, was one of seven missing for Lampard and the one whose absence the ex-Derby and Chelsea boss took most issue with, but Elland Road was the last place he could go looking for sympathy.

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Memories are long, in Leeds and tempers, all night, were short.

Leeds showed just one change from the defeat at Brighton and it was predictable, Luis Sinisterra taking the place of Daniel James having showed more than enough against Barnsley and the Seagulls to force his way in.

The Colombian was bright in an opening 15 minutes that passed without much in the way of incident, bar some Anthony Gordon time wasting and a Pascal Struijk cross picked off by Pickford.

There was plenty of possession for the hosts and time spent in the Everton half, but no chances to speak of for either side, so the opening goal came as a complete surprise.

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It was a Sinisterra toepoke, an attempt to disrupt an attack, that created an opening for the visitors and drew Diego Llorente out of position, allowing Alexander Iwobi to slot the ball through for Anthony Gordon to run in and nutmeg Meslier. Llorente briefly appeared to have a chance to cut out the pass but could not sort his feet out and just like that Leeds were a goal down.

Everton set about embedding themselves under Leeds' skin on and off the pitch. Tom Davies flicked out a boot at Meslier, who not only had the ball in his hands but was moving to start a phase of play, to spark a confrontation, while the managers visibly rubbed each other up the wrong way on the touchline. Marsch took exception to Everton’s slowing down of the game’s tempo and spent most of the first half letting fourth official Andre Marriner know all about it.

The American’s mood was about to worsen.

Rodrigo, before he departed, could have levelled but just couldn't get a touch on Jack Harrison's dangerous cross. The forward then headed wide from a Brenden Aaronson ball. That was his last opportunity to make an impact before chasing a through ball, bumping into Pickford and dislocating his shoulder.

Even with Gelhardt on and buzzing around, attacks were difficult for Leeds to build as they switched the ball to wide areas and hoped to be able to cross, while their visitors packed the area with bodies.

The interval changed things, though.

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Leeds were almost instantly more dangerous, showing patience in their first attack before Harrison slid the ball into the feet of Aaronson and he fired it goalward, Pickford palming wide.

The pressure built steadily, Leeds winning corners and playing deep in Everton territory, and chances continued to come.

A Sinisterra cross unexpectedly made its way to the feet of Harrison and his effort was tame.

The tempo was back, Leeds were pressing and Elland Road responded, sensing something was coming.

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Aaronson, who started the half brilliantly, got on the ball in the middle from a Gelhardt touch and drove at the heart of Everton before feeding Sinisterra, the winger cutting inside and letting fly with a wonderful low strike. It was every bit as pretty as those scored by the last South American to jink into the middle from the right flank in Leeds colours.

Leeds had lift off and referee Darren England struggled to keep a lid on the game. Gordon caught Rasmus Kristensen a little late, the pair went head to head and as the players formed a scrum on the pitch, the two benches lost their cool.

Into the powder keg Marsch threw Mateusz Klich and he helped to up the ante, probing and poking at Everton to try and create final-third havoc.

The result was almost a goal, the Pole's good work taking Leeds into the area before Gelhardt sidefooted wide from the penalty spot.

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An even better chance was to come for the youngster when Harrison's pass worked its way through to him and this time Pickford pulled off a remarkable foot save.

Bamford did make his entrance, along with Daniel James, but it was Everton with the final two big chances.

Kristensen blocked from Amadou Onana bang in front of goal and Meslier denied the clean-through Nathan Patterson with a huge stop.

With players from both sides almost out on their feet, the final whistle was a chance to breathe, but many will be holding theirs right to the last minute of the transfer deadline to find out how the story of the summer striker hunt ends and how it changes the overall plot of Leeds United’s 2022/23 campaign.