Brilliant Leeds United ignore the excuses to claim big 3-2 win at West Ham United - Yorkshire Post 16/1/22
Midway through the first half Leeds United were given another excuse to feel sorry for themselves.
By Stuart Rayner
Junior Firpo had been rubbing his hamstring gingerly for some time when Adam Forshaw went to ground, and began doing the same.
With Leo Fuhr Hjelde stripped and ready to come on, a pause probably nowhere near as long as it felt followed after Forshaw left the field, his race run. Lewis Bate was sent on instead, Hjelde packed off to warm up a bit longer, then two minutes later replace Firpo.
Considering what it takes some teams to call off north London derbies - sorry, Premier League games - you have to look at the way Leeds plough on with a mixture of admiration and sympathy. They got their reward with a 3-2 win secured by Jack Harrison's hat-trick.
In the fifth added minute they even had the stroke of luck they had earned, Jarrod Bowen somehow chesting Michail Antonio's cross over the bar.
At kick-off Leeds had six senior players injured - plus Charlie Creswell who, unlike seven of their nine substitutes had played in the Premier League - and Diego Llorente suspended. It left Spanish international Rodrigo on a bench which otherwise would have an average age of 18. They just got on with it.
Leeds were winning 1-0 when Forshaw and Firpo - both of whom had started the game well -came off and 10 minutes later they did what they do when they play West Ham United and conceded a corner.
It could have been a signal for the roof to fall in, but instead they just scored again, as they did when Pablo Fornals equalised a second time.
Even with Raphinha hitting a free-kick against the post and Mateusz Klich unfortunate to have a goal disallowed, they still came out on top, restoring the gap to the relegation zone to eight points but throwing the now managerless Everton in the way. A win over Newcastle United could make things very good indeed, but that is getting ahead of ourselves.
It could have been one of those days for Leeds had they not refused to let it be.
They were terrific in the opening 10 minutes, Luke Ayling - surprisingly chosen at centre-back so that Robin Koch could hold the midfield - wide at a free-kick, and Harrison unable to wriggle a gap big enough to force a shot Lukasz Fabianski would have to save through.
They got their reward in the 10th minute, Ayling playing a ball over the top for Raphinha, who picked out Klich. He did force a save and when it came out to Forshaw, with a fair amount of net to aim open but his back to goal, rather than try to spin on it and snatch some glory, he laid it back for Harrison to open the scoring.
Forshaw then played a lovely outside-of-the-boot pass to Dan James, who worked hard for plenty of chances as the emergency centre-forward but wasted all of them.
In the 29th minute, Leeds had their warning. When Stuart Dallas conceded a corner, Craig Dawson got free and headed a fraction wide of the goal he found the last time the sides met here in the Premier League.
Five minutes later Dallas conceded another flag kick. Hjelde had been brought on to shadow Bowen in open play, changing Leeds's formation from a back three to a four depending on the whim of the former Hull City man. At the corner, though, he was Dallas's man and he lost him, heading in an equaliser.
Leeds just scored another, surprisingly from their own corner.
When Ayling headed Raphinha's corner on, Harrison found himself in so much space you wondered if he was offside but he was not.
West Ham came back strongly again at the start of the second half. When Ayling gave the ball away, the Hammers worked it to Antonio, whose touch Fornals ran onto and hit a clever shot inside the near post. It took an important Ayling header a minute later to deny Nikola Vlasic the chance of a third.
Leeds just refused to throw in the towel.
When a brilliant Raphinha pass picked out Harrison and Fabianski ran out to him, he showed the composure of a man who has scored four goals in his last two league games, not someone who had not broken his duck for the season until then.
The Brazilian was starting to take control of the game, picking himself up after a Manuel Lazini foul and curling the free-kick against the post.
Rodrigo had come on by now, harshly replacing Premier League debutant Bate, but he did not have the impact hoped for.
When Raphinha skipped passed Issa Diop and pulled the ball back,. Klich's shot grazed Rodrigo, stood on the line on its way in.
On the one hand, the forward ought to have kept himself in an onside position but was he really interfering with play? Video assistant referee Craig Pawson decided he was.
The Hammers also had a goal disallowed for offside, given against Bowen, although some Leeds fans would argue the flag went up a bit late. About seven days late.
With Bowen's incredible miss, Leeds could not say all the luck went against them, but everything they got was very hard-earned.