'We got sloppy' - Leeds United's Under-23s edged out by Arsenal under the Elland Road lights

Leeds United's Under-23s were edged out 4-2 by Arsenal at Elland Road on Friday night in Premier League 2 action.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 9:56 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 9:58 pm
Leeds United's Under-23s fell to defeat against Arsenal at Elland Road. Pic: Leeds United

The headline team news for head coach Mark Jackson was defender Junior Firpo's inclusion in the starting line-up following his return from injury.

Sam Greenwood also started against his former side in what was a strong development squad though there was no place for top goalscorer Joe Gelhardt after his recent first team exploits along with full-back Cody Drameh.

Leeds started the night on the front foot in front of a near 9,000-strong crowd under the lights in LS11.

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Crysencio Summerville might've had a penalty in the early exchanges as Gunners defender Joel Lopez crashed into the back of him though referee Martin Coy turned down loud appeals.

United did eventually open the scoring a short while later and it was Greenwood on target against his old team-mates.

Arsenal defender Mazeed Ogungbo was down on the field but his side opted to play on before Summerville won the ball back on the right flank.

The winger fed Greenwood who cushioned an effort past Karl Hein and high into the net among protests.

The visitors, though, were back on level terms just five minutes later as Whites shot stopper Kristoffer Klaesson failed to clear his lines fully.

Salah Oulad M'Hand picked up the loose ball and took a touch out of his feet before curling a lovely effort into the top corner.

Jackson saw his side escape another Arsenal counter before the interval as Folarin Balogun hit the post with a low effort.

The hosts made the Gunners forward pay within seconds as Max Dean did what his counterpart couldn't in the opposing box to restore the advantage before the half-time interval.

Firpo - who had exited on the 30 minute mark - was joined by Charlie Cresswell and Summerville in the stands as Stuart McKinstry and Liam McCarron entered.

The evening fell apart for Leeds in the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Arsenal levelled just seconds after the break through Mika Biereth.

Kevin Betsy's men completed the comeback just minutes later with the visitors riding the crest of a wave, Klaesson took down substitute Kido Taylor-Hart leaving no option but for a penalty to be awarded.

Balogun duly converted with Leeds left stunned as all of their good work was undone.

United mustered a response and it was earlier goalscorer Dean who was at the heart of it.

The striker struck the post from distance before forcing Hein into another impressive point-blank save as Leeds rallied.

It was the visitors, though, who would have the final say late on with time running down as Balogun put the ball on a plate for the onrushing Lopez to seal all three points.

"It was a really, really disappointing second half performance," Jackson told the YEP post-match.

"We spoke a lot about how we want to start games and I thought in the first half we started really well. We put Arsenal on the back foot and we played the way we wanted to play.

"At half-time, we said we needed to continue to start in the same vein with the players who were coming on. We needed to impose ourselves back on the game and we didn't do that - it's a simple fact.

"We got sloppy and when you're playing against an excellent team in Arsenal who have the players they do, you get punished.

"Ultimately, we can't paper over the fact that we weren't good enough in the second half. Individuals kept going and showed glimpses but collectively we're not happy with that."

Asked about the large crowd at Elland Road for the game, Jackson added: "It was something we were looking forward to. I think it contributed to how we started the game.

"Huge credit to the fans who came out, it's just typical Leeds for me. They support every team and get behind the lads."

Leeds United U23s: Klaesson, Moore, Firpo (Hejlde 31), Jenkins, Kenneh, Cresswell (C) (McCarron 45), Summerville (McKinstry 45), Bate, Dean, Greenwood, Miller. Subs: Van Den Heuvel, McGurk.

Arsenal U23s: Hein, Swanson (Ideho 72), Lopez, Monlouis, Rekik, Ogungbo (Taylor-Hart 24), Norton-Cuffy, Akinola, Biereth, Oulad M'Hand (Henry-Francis 45), Balogun. Subs: Ejeheri, Buttler-Oyeoeji.