Leeds United's result at Brighton could get better as week goes on - Graham Smyth's Verdict - YEP 28/11/21
At half-time at Brighton a point was a great result for Leeds United, but its real worth won't become clear for a week.
By Graham Smyth
In isolation it wasn't exactly what Marcelo Bielsa and the Whites needed, particularly when the performance is taken into consideration.
Beating Crystal Palace and Brentford at home, however, would put Saturday's 0-0 draw at the Amex in a far kinder light and what happened in the first half could never be spoken of again.
Taking seven points from nine is far easier said that done, though, and Leeds chances of doing it will be next to zero if they replicate what they did in the first half at Brighton.
The game was another example of Leeds' inability to put together a 90-minute performance, as the team who played so brilliantly in the first half at Tottenham Hotspur failed to show up for kick-off on the south coast.
And even though the second half was better, at least containing chances that might actually have allowed them to nick a win, it still wasn't convincing.
That's been the problem with Marcelo Bielsa's men for much of this season, even before an injury crisis that robbed him of key players - the side who allowed themselves to be dragged into a scrap at Burnley in August and only just escaped Turf Moor with a point was as close to a first-choice XI as Bielsa might hope to field.
All that ails Leeds is not found in Patrick Bamford and Luke Ayling's absence, something Bielsa himself has pointed out.
They are not attacking with the same joyful abandon or slickness, not creating the same glut of good to glorious chances or playing with a panache that takes the breath away.
Opponents have to be given their due, the issues are not entirely of Leeds' own creation and just as Spurs posed very specific and difficult problems for Bielsa, Brighton asked direct and awkward questions from the off at the Amex.
Leeds went into the game on the back of an injury boost, Raphinha and Rodrigo returning to the line-up at the expense of Mateusz Klich and Joe Gelhardt, while Pascal Struijk could consider himself unlucky to be dropped for Junior Firpo.
Bielsa would later reveal that his Dutch defender was not fit to play all 90 minutes, but the man who replaced him from the start was desperately lucky to hear the half-time whistle.
Put simply, Tariq Lamptey tore the former Barcelona man apart, using pace to get at the left-back and reach crossing positions from where he could produce dangerous end product.
The initial minutes saw him draw a yellow-card worthy foul from Firpo and send in a cross that Jakub Moder volleyed just over.
With Marc Cucurella almost as menacing on the other flank, Brighton posed a real threat, using a startling amount of space to work the ball forward or using pace to hit Leeds on the break.
While Graham Potter's men were finding passes in the Leeds half, the visitors were finding blue and white shirts with too many passes to establish a foothold.
It should have been 1-0 when Lamptey sent in another cross and Neal Maupay met it six yards out only to send it over the bar.
Bielsa changed his formation, putting Kalvin Phillips back into his midfield role from the back three position he started in at Spurs, but it still wasn't working ahead of him. Rodrigo was having to drop deeper and deeper to try and get involved and Brighton were comfortable defensively.
Leandro Trossard was picking up the ball from deep too, but he was having an impact Leeds' record signing could only dream of, making space for himself and running riot in it.
A fierce drive from the Belgian was foiled by a fingertip save from Meslier, who touched the ball onto the post.
His next effort forced Meslier into the kind of action a frozen Rob Sanchez must have been yearning for at the other end.
On and on the hosts came, Moder hitting the outside of the post, Maupay steering another Lamptey cross wide.
With lone striker Daniel James looking lost amid a forest of giant centre-backs, Leeds had no presence in the final third and the Brighton defenders' willingness to step out and dribble added to Bielsa's problems.
The pace out wide, a packed midfield and a roving forward in Trossard gave Brighton the look of a set perfectly set-up to stay on top of Leeds.
Even Raphinha, Leeds player of the season so far, was almost completely nullified.
Half-time changes that saw Phillips, who had been stretching his calves and moving gingerly, and the beleaguered Firpo replaced by Struijk and Shackleton, did not give an immediate sense that Bielsa had fixed it, but there were one or two promising signs.
Struijk got his foot on the ball in the middle and played nice passes to the right and the left, helping Raphinha to curl in a dangerous cross and Dallas to finally warm Sanchez' hands.
An Adam Forshaw interception and Dallas' run forward moved Leeds into a position to work a shooting chance for Rodrigo, who blazed over.
Trossard and Lamptey were still nuisances, the latter getting away from Dallas to cause mild panic once more. Leeds were still causing themselves problems too, Shackleton's pass straight to the feet of Moder presented another chance that went wide. The same player blasted high over the bar seconds later.
It was the entrance of Tyler Roberts, combined with an injection of urgency, that gave Leeds teeth. It still wasn't much to look at, but there was an energy to them.
The Welshman had sight of goal a number of times, getting into good positions and being found with enough regularity to make a winner possible. Sanchez stood firm, though, as Meslier took a turn to look on.
Craig Pawson's final whistle was met by boos, not from fans of the side just above the drop zone, but the one in eighth, leaving Potter to politely but firmly pick a fight with his fanbase, while Bielsa placated his by taking the blame, again.
He sought positives in the second half but must find answers in his squad, in short time.
A point, in the end, was a good result and it could get better. They must not let it get any worse, though.