Leeds United must avoid Brentford link between the 'beginning' and possible end

Leeds United are heading to Brentford needing a result to give themselves any chance of staying up.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 4:45 am

The Whites must better Burnley’s final day result against Newcastle United today to survive their second season back in the Premier League, nearly two years on from going up as Championship champions.

Twenty three months have passed since the Whites were promoted and it was on a February midweek night at Brentford in which Leeds provided the launchpad for what was about to be achieved.

Times are rather different nearly two seasons later and especially so from a Brentford point of view with Thomas Frank’s Bees comfortably safe in 11th place ahead of their home finale against Leeds.

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BACK ON TRACK: Whites captain Liam Cooper, left, and striker Patrick Bamford, right, applaud Leeds United's travelling fans after the momentum-shifting 1-1 draw at Brentford of February 2020. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

But back on Tuesday February 11, 2020 both sides were battling for Championship promotion and a 1-1 draw thanks to Liam Cooper’s header shifted Whites momentum en route to a passage to the Premier League for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

Leeds were looking to banish the memory of the previous season’s heartache in the play-off semi-finals to Derby County as part of a campaign in which the Bees finished 11th in their fifth season back in the second tier after their 2014 promotion as League One runners up.

But it gradually became apparent that Brentford were becoming contenders to go up again the following term and United’s 1-1 draw at Griffin Park checked the momentum of a promotion rival as well as halting their own recent slide.

Leeds had moved top of the table and with an 11-point buffer in the automatic promotion spots through December’s 2-0 win at home to Hull City but the 3-3 draw against visiting Cardiff City the following weekend proved the start of an alarming side.

Ten games later, a 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest left Leeds second and with just a one-point gap back to the chasing pack and fifth-placed Brentford were just two points adrift in fifth.

It meant defeat at Griffin Park would have booted Leeds out of the top two and matters looked grim for Leeds midway through the first half after Said Benrahma had fired the hosts ahead following a horlicks from Kiko Casilla.

Brentford kicked off seeking a third successive league win but Leeds squandered a good opportunity to take the lead through Jack Harrison who stormed into the box from the left flank but scuffed his shot at David Raya. At the other end, Christian Norgaard fired a vicious shot just wide from the edge of the box.

But the Bees were gifted a 25th-minute opener as Cooper’s sideways backpass to Casilla went completely underneath the Spanish ‘keeper’s feet as he tried to control the ball, leaving Benrahma with a tap-in from six yards out.

Leeds looked to immediately respond and a rising half volley from Pablo Hernandez was tipped over the bar by Raya.

But the Bees ‘keeper then followed Casilla’s lead in making an individual blunder which led to a goal, the Bees custodian dropping the ball from a corner and allowing Cooper to stab the ball home from close range.

United’s strong response continued and a fine cross from Stuart Dallas found Helder Costa whose diving header flew just wide.

After the break, a delivery from Luke Ayling reached Patrick Bamford whose header on the stretch was sent over the bar.

But Leeds then wasted a glorious chance to bag a winner as a flowing move ended with a glorious shooting opportunity for Costa who could only fire a weak shot at Raya from just inside the box.

A rising shot from Hernandez then flew over the bar but Leeds had made their point in more ways than one.

The rot had been stopped and an incredible 12 wins from their last 14 games followed, putting them where they are today but with survival hanging by a thread upon their Brentford return.