Spotlight on Rodrigo's performance against Liverpool as Leeds United's record signing comes under fire

Rodrigo came up short in what could have been a match-defining moment early in the first half of Leeds United's clash with Liverpool.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 12:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 12:24 pm
Harrison consoles Rodrigo after a missed chance. Pic: Getty

There were a fair few grumbles among fans when Leeds United put out Marcelo Bielsa's starting eleven to face Liverpool on Sunday afternoon - some have patiently offered Rodrigo the benefit of the doubt following lacklustre recent performances, while others begged he be erased from the line-up altogether.

The attacker arrived at Leeds last summer for a club record fee of £27m and many fans feel he is yet to justify that price tag.

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Rodrigo celebrates against Manchester City. Pic: Getty

Rodrigo didn't really catch the eye in his first term at Elland Road until right at the end of the season, when his tally of four goals in the final four games showed a lot of promise for his second season in white.

Four games in, however, Rodrigo's Liverpool display did little to convince fans that he's continued on the upward trajectory that was promised in May.

Rodrigo was on hassling duties in the early stages of the game, with Fabinho earmarked for his focussed attention as he led the high press.

He initially showed willing and initiative in possession. As Jack Harrison surged down the left, Rodrigo raised both arms in request for the cross, but his plea went unanswered.

Rodrigo celebrates a brace at Burnley. Pic: Getty

Moments later he sought an opportunity in the same area - bang on the penalty spot - and this time Raphinha gifted him the pass every forward dreams of, as Rodrigo found himself with space and clear sight of the goal.

Going for power instead of precision, the 30-year-old hit the ball straight into Alisson’s arms, squandering what turned out to be Leeds’ best chance of the game, in a moment that would later be rued as match-defining.

But Rodrigo's best intentions remained and he continued making runs at the top end of the pitch with limited success, his touch letting him down as he tried to get on the end of a through ball dispatched by Luke Ayling.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo was not acquitting himself too favourably at the other end of the pitch, failing to protect the ball as Leeds came increasingly under the cosh from their marauding visitors.

Rodrigo battles against Virgil Van Dijk. Pic: Getty

Though laudable, his efforts to make things happen for the Whites went astray when he came short to receive a ball from Harrison inside his own half. Rodrigo bounced it back, then lost the return as Fabinho dashed in to claim the ball and set up a chance for Sadio Mané.

Lacking in sharpness, the Spaniard was among those culpable for Liverpool’s opening goal. He watched on as Joël Matip breezed through the centre of the pitch to create an attack which Rodrigo could have nipped in the bud, had he been more alive to the centre-back's threat.

What followed was a period of sustained pressure by the Reds, which called for composure and calm to take the whip out of the game. In this respect, Rodrigo was found wanting as, when Kalvin Phillips' desperate clearance found his feet, he was caught off-guard and somehow handed the ball back to his opponents for them to begin another wave of attack.

Before being hauled off at the break, Rodrigo made a couple of attacking contributions that should not go unmarked. Leeds' number 19 linked up nicely with Patrick Bamford and, when Rodrigo rolled the ball neatly into his path in the final third, it was Bamford's turn to fluff his lines as a poor first touch blunted a promising attack.

Rodrigo fells Charlie Taylor. Pic: Getty

Later Rodrigo found himself up by the left wing corner flag, where he dug out a high looping cross for Luke Ayling, whose knee sent the ball flying over the bar.

The cross turned out to be Rodrigo's final action of the game as he made way for Tyler Roberts at half-time.

In all, Rodrigo did little to change fans' opinions of his potential. Even putting its influence on the game to one side, his early effort on goal fell substantially short of what you would expect from a £27m striker and his alertness in defensive situations, second to everything and failing to control the ball at times when it was vitally necessary, left much to be desired.

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Rodrigo warms up against Newcastle. Pic: Getty
Rodrigo on the ball against Burnley. Pic: Getty