|Fulham 2 v 1 Leeds United|
Saturday, 21st December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Leeds edged out in feisty clash at the Cottage
Sunday, 22nd Dec 2019 13:18 by Tim Whelan
With the right result we would have been 12 points clear of third place and we deserved at least a point from this eventful game, but Fulham claimed the win through a fine finish from Onomah.
Once again Bielsa kept faith with the players who had served him well in recent weeks, with the only change from last week being the return of Liam Cooper in place of Berardi. He had obviously been given instructions to stick as close to Mitrovic as possible, and he was to give the Championship’s leading scorer a few knocks during the course of the game.
We managed to create the first chance of the game, which ended with Costa shhoting straight at forcing Rodak, but then we were dealt two large dollops of misfortune before ten minutes were up. Hernandez had been instrumental in our first move of the game, but then he collapsed on the floor and had to be replaced by Aloiski.
Then a penalty was awarded to Fulham after Mitrovic found space to cross and as the players jostled to get beneath it, White was adjudged to have pushed Decorva-Reid. Although Mitrovic sent the spot kick onto the post, unfortunately it spun into the other corner of the net.
Leeds immediately began to work hard to get back into the game, and were to enjoy a fair amount of possession for the rest of the half. Bamford was played in on the right, but with no one available for a cross he had to take a shot from a narrow angle and could only send it into the side netting.
Dallas had a shot well saved and our best effort of the half came from a ball pulled back to Klich, but agonisingly the ball came crashing back off the post. The frustration obviously got the better of him as he became our first booking, for a tackle that was so late it could have been a Northern Rail service.
That was the sign for the game to get a little bad tempered, with Scott Parker’s side determined to frustrate our high tempo style. When Ayling wanted to take a quick throw he ended up shoving Cairney as the Fulham player held onto the ball, and as this was right in front of the benches, the staff of both clubs jumped up to get involved. Scott Parker and both players were lectured by the referee, but there was no further punishment.
And shortly before the break Costa retaliated after a foul by pushing his assailant to the floor, and inevitably the Fulham fans were on their feet baying for a dismissal. But as someone who grew up watching football in the 70s I thought that was far too soft and that these people ought to be strapped into a chair and made to watch the Hunter v Lee bout on repeat, to show them what proper violent conduct actually looks like.
Thankfully the ref agreed and thought that a yellow card would suffice. But Costa would be replaced at half time by Eddie, possibility through the fear that he might sin again and get sent off, but more likely due to his rather ineffectual performance in the first period, with Bielsa thinking we needed a bit more ooomph up front to grab an equaliser.
During half time Allan Clarke was introduced to the crowd as the special guest. He did of course play for both clubs, but spent the peak years of his career as part of the legendary Revie side, and on his way round the ground he got by far the best reception from the Leeds fans in the corner.
We began the second half with Eddie furthest forward and Bamford behind, but I would have swapped them round. That way Bamford could continue to work hard and win possession, while Eddie could use his pace to run though and take possession. But too often in the second half there were long balls played up to Eddie as the player furthest forward, which he couldn’t hope to win in the air.
We also began the half with Alioski wide right and Dallas left back, another pair I would have swapped round. But what do I know. After Fulham had a goal disallowed for offside, we grabbed the equaliser in the 54th minute. Alioski sent Eddie through, and when Rodak spilled his shot Bamford was able to run through and tap the ball into an empty net.
And for the next ten minutes or so it looked like we were getting on top and would go on to win the game, roared on by the 1900 or so Leeds fans among the sellout crowd. Harrison forced Rodak into another good save before the ball was scrambled clear.
But Fulham weren’t done yet,and they went close to regaining the lead with a shot from distance from Cabillero that Casilla did very well to tip over the bar. And in the 69th minute a corner came back to Mitrovic, and when his shot was blocked it fell nicely to Onamoa, who lashed an excellent shot past Casilla from 12 yards.
Bielsa made his final change as Leeds pressed for another equaliser, with Jordan Stevens replacing Ayling to play wide on the right, Dallas moving to right back and Alioski to the left. Alioski was to try another spectacular volley from a corner, but unfortunately without the same result as at Huddersfield, as the ball flashed wide.
As the game moved into injury time we forced a series of corners and White had a header scrambled off the line and another was headed over byba defender before Eddie could get to it. But despite an extra five minutes being played Fulham were able to hold on for the win they needed to get their own promotion challenge back on track.
So the gap to third is down to nine points, but I don't think we should be too worried just yet. We didn’t play badly for much of this game, it’s just the Fulham had the breaks at the right time. All the same, after the disappointments of the last match and a half we could really do with beating an in-form Preston on boxing day. MOT!
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