Praise for Charlie Cresswell and Raphinha but Leeds United drop into bottom three
Marcelo Bielsa was left to pick over the bones of another disappointing home game for his Leeds United team after they surrendered all three points to a 90th minute winning goal from West Ham's Michail Antonio.
The result left home fans angered that the player who scored the winner for West Ham could have been sent-off for several offences, including flinging his arm into the face of Whites goalkeeper Illan Meslier as the two players jumped for the ball.
And with the Hammers' other goal in their 2-1 victory coming from a shot that deflected in off Junior Firpo's backside it was just not Leeds' day and they have dropped into the bottom three.
They also lost their goalscorer, Raphinha, to a hip injury in the second half as their problems this season mount.
But head coach Bielsa did not complain other than to say he thought his team did not deserve to be on the wrong side of the result.
He said: "They are two teams with different realities.
“I don't think that we deserved to lose. But I imagine that the opponents' manager thinks that they deserved to win.
“When a team finds themselves in a good moment, they obtain these rewards and when a team accumulates negative results you don't find a lot of things that they deserve.
“We came up against an opponent who is going through a great moment, at the moment.
“The impression I have is that in the second half it was difficult to get the ball to the opposing half. We defend a lot and too close to our own box.
“In situations like that sometimes it is difficult to avoid the opponent from scoring.
“When a team goes through a good period of form, it’s easier for them to get what they are looking for.
“When a team like ours goes through a lower moment, what they deserve is difficult for them to obtain it.
“We didn’t play for the draw. There were moments in the game where they overcame us.
“That wasn’t a consequence of our intentions, it was a product of the dispute that was on play.”
Bielsa praised 19-year-old centre-back Charlie Cresswell who looked cool on the ball on his first Premiership start after being brought in with four defenders unavailable.
He said: "It was a performance of a lot of personality, a lot of character, very few errors, imposing himself in a very, very difficult game against a striker who is very difficult to neutralise.
"For a young player who took a long time to earn this opportunity, he did so against Fulham (in midweek)."
Bielsa agreed Raphinha was in impressive form as the Brazilian produced his most eye catching performance of the season before going off midway through the second half.
"He let us know it was becoming difficult for him to stay on the pitch," explained Bielsa.
"Throughout the whole week he was recovering from the knock he received against Newcastle. But he played a great game as long as he could stay on the field.”
It was a rare game for Leeds under Bielsa to lose after they held a lead, given them in a thrilling first half in which there could have been many more goals at both ends than the one that divided the teams at the break.
West Ham, who did the double over Bielsa's men last season, started like a house on fire and could have had three goals in the first 10 minutes with Said Benrahma and Antonio getting in shots, two of which required saves from Meslier.
But the Whites settled to have a good spell themselves as Stuart Dallas forced a good save from visiting keeper Lukasz Fabianski, who then had a more routine save from a Raphinha strike.
Leeds went ahead when Rodrigo latched on to a loose pass by Tomas Soucek and raced down the left wing, pulling the ball back for Mateusz Klich who calmly set up Raphinha to score from the edge of the box.
Antonio and Jarrod Bowen both went close to equalising for the Hammers before Raphinha came within inches of his second goal with a great shot that beat Fabianski only to hit the post.
In injury-time, mostly down to Raphinha getting treatment to his face after being caught by a flailing Antonio arm, the visitors had a golden chance, but Pablo Fornals was denied by Meslier in a one-on-one with the keeper.
Leeds made a bright start to the second half as young defender Cresswell's header from a Dallas corner was deflected wide and half-time substitute Jack Harrison saw his shot blocked after another fine Raphinha break and cut back.
The game appeared to change after a contentious moment in the 53rd minute. Soucek put the ball in the net and initially a goal was given by referee Kevin Friend although the ball had only come to the West Ham player after Meslier had dropped it as a result of being caught in the face by Antonio.
A quick check by VAR led to Friend reviewing his decision and ruling out the goal he had awarded, but he chose to book Antonio, not send him off as the chanting home fans were demanding.
Five minutes later Antonio's arm caught Liam Cooper on the head, but no further action was taken against him and indeed he was awarded the free-kick in this incident.
West Ham went on to have a strong spell with Antonio sending a header straight at Meslier and Soucek forcing Meslier into another save with a header from a corner.
Leeds responded to create a big opportunity as Raphinha's run and pull back set up Klich only for the midfielder to send his precise shot wide via a little deflection.
From the resulting corner Rodrigo turned smartly in the area, but his shot was straight at Fabianski.
It looked like they had weathered the Hammers storm, but it was 1-1 in the 67th minute when Bowen's shot deflected initially off Cooper and went in via Firpo.
With all to play for both sides went for the winner, Benrahma sending a free-kick over and Soucek off target with an overhead kick for the visitors and Rodrigo's shot being comfortably saved at the other end.
But the Whites were caught out on a swift break in the 90th minute and Antonio cleverly took the ball past Jamie Shackleton before planting the ball in the bottom corner of the net for what did turn out to be the winning goal.
Leeds United 1
West Ham United 2
(Firpo og 67, Antonio 90)
Saturday, September 25, 2021
Leeds: Meslier; Shackleton (Summerville 90+1), Cresswell, Cooper, Firpo; Phillips, Raphinha (Roberts 69), Dallas, Klich, James (Harrison 45); Rodrigo.
West Ham: Fabianski; Coufal, Zouma, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen (Dawson 90+2), Fornals (Vlasic 78), Benrahma; Antonio (Yarmolenko 90+6).
Referee: Kevin Friend