New injuries no help and different ways of looking at Leeds United's latest point

Thank goodness for stoppage time.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 11:45 am

Without it, Leeds United would have had two points from this week’s trio of games against Brighton, Crystal Palace and Brentford instead of five.

The Whites would have hoped for more and tests against some of the division’s real big hitters are next.

But a point against the Bees was better than none although United still remain hard to predict and short of their brilliant best.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

BRIGHT SPARK: Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts who produced a very good performance in the first-half of Sunday's 2-2 draw against Brentford at Elland Road. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images.

Whites captain Liam Cooper signalled strong confidence in United’s capabilities in his matchday programme notes ahead of yesterday’s Elland Road clash against the Bees.

“Like Crystal Palace, Brentford are also a good team, but we know if we play to our potential, we can beat anybody on our day,” said the Whites skipper.

"It’s important we build on this momentum now, keep going, keep trying to improve and climb up the Premier League table.”

By half-time, Leeds were 11th, the 23rd-minute strike from Tyler Roberts seemingly having the Whites on course for a fourth victory of the Premier League season and to the periphery of the division’s top half.

Yet Leeds were far from at their best in the first 45 minutes against Brentford and, on the balance of play, perhaps a draw was about right.

It would be easy to point to the fact that Leeds suffered a fresh double injury blow during yesterday’s contest against the Bees, Marcelo Bielsa’s side losing first Cooper and then Kalvin Phillips.

But it should be remembered that Brentford already had four players missing in the approach to their trip to West Yorkshire and then lost the services of star striker Ivan Toney after the forward tested positive for coronavirus.

That meant joining David Raya, Josh DaSilva, Kristoffer Ajer and Mathias Jorgensen on the sidelines, five players out, and, by the end of the contest, the same number of absentees as the Whites.

Phillips, Cooper, Robin Koch, Pascal Struijk and Joe Gelhardt are all important players for Leeds but so too are those ones who were missing for the Bees.

Injuries do not help, especially when they are suffered during a game allowing no time to prepare for them and Leeds were twice forced into major reshuffles after first Cooper and then Phillips were forced off injured.

But Bielsa has refused to use this season’s many injuries as an excuse, always insisting that he has the players at his disposal to have Leeds higher up the table.

And it is pretty clear that United will need to be at their best to rise significantly higher.

Leeds were good in spells in the first half but without truly getting going like they could after a lovely move in the first minute that ended with James on the deck.

But the real highlight of United’s first-half display was the performance of Tyler Roberts in probably his best 45 minutes in a Leeds shirt.

Roberts was everywhere, firstly firing home Raphinha’s cross to put United in front and then seeing a fine rising shot tipped over the bar by keeper Alvaro Fernandez, shortly after Roberts had been booked for a late challenge on Bryan Mbeumo.

A dangerous Roberts cross was then crucially cleared by Bees captain Pontus Jansson on his Elland Road return and shortly afterwards Roberts threatened again as a powerful cross-shot flew through the box.

But whilst Leeds were on top they were far from being as impressive as they can be and Brentford hit back with a vengeance after the break.

Leeds looked at sixes and sevens at the back at times and it was no real surprise to see the Bees net twice given the way they started the second half, Sergi Canos particularly menacing.

By then, Bielsa had Junior Firpo playing in a back-three which was missing Cooper - and Koch - Leeds also minus the services of Phillips who was replaced by Mateusz Klich.

A fixture against a very capable side that was always going to present a tough afternoon was becoming even tougher and United were fashioning only the occasional chance in search of a leveller.

Yet for the second time in five days, the Whites struck in the very final stages of the game, Bamford kneeing home a 95th-minute equaliser, five days after Raphinha’s ice-cool penalty sealed a 1-0 win at home to Crystal Palace.

Leeds were well on top statistically against the Bees, Bielsa’s side having 13 shots on goal, six of which were on target as part of 63 per cent of the game’s possession.

Brentford managed nine attempts at goal, three of which were on target but the stats don’t take into account the nature of those chances, including Canos heading a particularly golden opportunity wide.

Leeds looked on course for victory at half-time but had Brentford taken their chances early in the second half the Bees might have been out of sight.

They weren’t, and Leeds and Bamford made them pay.

The Whites would have hoped for more but, in the end and in the circumstances, yesterday’s last-gasp draw was probably, in the end, a good point.

A message from the Editor:

Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.

We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.

Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.

With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Click here to subscribe.

For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.

Thank you Laura Collins