Diego Llorente’s late equaliser for Leeds denied Liverpool a place in the top four of the Premier League as they held the visitors for a 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Monday night.
In a match overshadowed by off-field developments, Marcelo Bielsa’s men fulfilled the expectations of the football fans across the continent as they defied yet another ‘Super League’ club after their victory against Manchester City last week.
Here are the talking points from Leeds vs Liverpool fixture:
Both Liverpool and Leeds United entered Monday’s fixture with three consecutive victories behind them in the Premier League. Leeds were fresh from a 2-1 victory over league leaders Manchester City while the the Reds suffered an exit from the Champions League with a 1-4 aggregate loss against Real Madrid.
But the match was overshadowed by the announcement of the European Super League and Liverpool’s role as one of the founding members of the league. The Whites sported t-shirts saying ‘Earn it’ and ‘Football is for the fans’ next to the Champions League logo during practice. Leeds have reportedly put a banner saying the same inside Liverpool’s dressing room, irking Jurgen Klopp and his men.
The sudden announcement of the Super League and the backlash that was generated would have been undoubtedly on players’ minds, affecting their performance on the field. With a ‘Super League’ club taking on a newly-promoted side for the first time since the announcement, the fixture assumed greater significance than the points at stake.
Liverpool dominated the first half, but it was Leeds who should have opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Fabinho gave the ball straight to Kalvin Phillips 35 yards from goal and Phillips played Patrick Bamford in behind the Liverpool defence with one touch, but Bamford’s first touch let him down terribly as he watched the ball quickly roll to Alisson.
The Reds scored the first goal when Trent Alexander-Arnold latched on to Diogo Jota’s fine pass and squared it to Sadio Mane to slot into an empty net.
The break turned around Leeds’ fortunes as they dominated possession (62%) so much that it was Liverpool’s lowest possession figure in three seasons.
Diego Llorente equalised the score for Leeds, but the Whites had multiple chances. Jack Harrison and Tyler Roberts fired straight at Allison, while Patrick Bamford hit the crossbar.
Despite lack of possession, Liverpool failed to convert two chances to win the game – with Mohamed Salah shooting wide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being denied by Meslier.
LEEDS HAVE A ROARING DEBUT SEASON
For a newly-promoted side that had scant expectations from critics and fans, Leeds managed to not just hold on to the Premier League, but make their mark in it with their unique style of play.
Leeds both scored and conceded 50 goals this season in 32 games – showing their penchant for taking risks in order to win games.
Along the way, they have defeated champions-elect Manchester City 2-1, held Chelsea (0-0) and Liverpool (1-1) to a draw, and crushed numerous well-established teams.
Leeds showed their uncanny ability to produce exciting games again on Monday, making silly mistakes in the first half before regrouping in the second half to dominate possession of the ball.
If not for some bad luck and the skills of Allison, they would have come out with another victory against the ‘Big Six’ teams in the Premier League.
WILL LIVERPOOL MAKE IT TO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE?
Liverpool entered Monday’s fixture at Elland Road three points behind fourth-placed West Ham, but they could not close the gap against a tenacious Leeds.
Liverpool’s fall from the heights of European domination has been spectacular, but recent victories in the Premier League have given hope to the fans that the Reds might just secure a spot in the Champions League.
The 1-1 draw on Monday leaves Liverpool two points behind West Ham and their European hopes hang by a thread. But all those calculations will be redundant if the club is banned from playing in European competitions, as is most likely the case if the European Super League is to go ahead.
MONDAY’S FIXTURE SHOWS WHY THE ESL IS A BAD IDEA
Football has always been a common man’s game – almost all the premier clubs across Europe have their roots in the working population of the regions they represent.
But the increasing commercialisation of football has increased the chasm between the richer and poorer clubs, especially after the introduction of live streaming.
Now, the 12 top clubs across the continent have gone further, establishing the exclusive European Super League with no chance for relegation.
With fans and experts raging against the league, there was a dire need for some reminder that it is the underdogs that make football enthralling. And Leeds United served their role perfectly well on Monday night – every fan of the game, of Leeds or otherwise, breathed with relief and excitement as Diego Llorente netted the ball in the second half.
Marcelo Bielsa and his men showed the world that money alone cannot buy talent, and clubs have to, in the end, ‘earn it’.
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