Leeds United may have to stop playing basketball if they want to score three-pointers this season.
For the first time since 1935, they have played six top games without a win from the start of a campaign.
West Ham boss David Moyes was right when he said they are entertaining to watch. But what’s great fun on grass makes for stark reading on paper – as Leeds is now in the bottom three.
Yes, the football is fast, furious and fun in these parts, but the locals are invariably left with sad faces at the end.
It was a question too far from Marcelo Bielsa’s chaotic side for their excellent goalkeeper Illan Meslier to save them again in death.
West Ham fought back from a goal to seal a win over Leeds at Elland Road
Michail Antonio (center) broke through in the breakaway to get the winner past Illan Meslier
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Cresswell, Cooper, Firpo; Phillips; Raphinha (Roberts, 69), Shackleton (Summerville, 90+1), Klich, James (Harrison, 46); Rodrigo
Subs not used: Drameh, Fuhr Hjelde, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Klaesson, McCarron
Booked: Meslier, Raphinha, Roberts
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Zouma, Coufal; Rice, Soucek; Benrahma, Fornals (Vlasic, 78), Bowen (Dawson, 90+2); Antonio (Yarmolenko, 90+7)
Subs not used: Areola, Diop, Johnson, Kral, Lanzini, Noble
Scorers: Firpo (own goal), Antonio
Booked: Fornals, Antonio
Manager: David Moyes
And so it was that Mikhail Antonio changed the mood in Elland Road with a typically ruthless finish to win a match that was more like the pandemonium of a playground – the hosts certainly can defend schoolboys at times.
“You understand why people want to look at Leeds,” Moyes said. “You end up being sucked into a game similar to hers. You try not to get involved, but once they break you through, you want to do the same in return. It was like basketball. There aren’t many teams in the world that play like Leeds.’
That last comment was no doubt meant as a compliment. But basketball teams are conditioned to concede dozens of points each week, and Leeds is also giving up countless opportunities.
The buzzer was not far from sounding when Antonio punished them in the last minute. That’s five Premier League goals from as many appearances for the striker this season, and the Hammers are unbeaten with him on the team.
When Antonio later came to reflect in front of the TV cameras on the pitch, some of the home fans labeled him a ‘cheat’ who should not have been on the pitch to score the winner, referring to an arm in the face of Meslier for which he was booked.
In reality, Leeds had cheated themselves out of victory after producing, at least in the first half, their best football of the season.
It was breathless again, but at this rate they are in danger of running out without much points to show for their efforts.
Jarrod Bowen nodded in from the right to score the leveler, Junior Firpo’s. bounced off
Bowen (left) cracked his shot and fullback Firpo’s nick then took it past Meslier
Raphinha once again shone for the hosts and opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a fine finish
Raphinha glanced at the goal and squeezed a shot over the desperate Lukasz Fabianski and into
The goalscorer was mobbed by Leeds supporters but they were left deflated in stoppage time
They led through Raphinha at half time and the home support roar at half time was almost equivalent to the energy their heroes exerted on the pitch.
But amid the noise of this raucous old stadium, confusion sets in and a team from Leeds was found to lack cohesion. Bielsa preferred to take the positives, and there were plenty of them.
“A succession of bad results, lack of points, position in the table are all factors that affect a team’s morale,” he said. “But if the performance isn’t negative, recovery is more likely.”
West Ham started the first half with a real threat, dominant enough to create the illusion that they are the home side. They ended it thankfully for the sanctuary of the undressing room.
Leeds can do that at its best with the opposition. Yes, they were lucky to make it to the 10-minute mark at 0-0 – 0-3 wouldn’t have been unjust – but then they had West Ham in a spin.
Their opening goal, however, owed much to the clumsiness of West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek, who virtually tackled himself in his own half before Rodrigo was able to steal in the 19th minute. He found Mateusz Klich who in turn rolled to Raphinha to send home the first time from 18 yards.
West Ham scored again in the second half, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Meslier
Antonio protested his innocence after hitting goalkeeper Meslier when he jumped into the air
A mention for Leeds goalkeeper Meslier. Twice within a frenetic gap he’d saved to deny first Antonio and then Said Benrahma what seemed like an inevitable visiting target.
Meslier was needed again in first-half stoppage time when Pablo Fornals was sent off clear, only for the French keeper to bravely block at the Spaniard’s feet.
Soucek celebrated like a relieved man at 52 minutes when he came in at close range. Perhaps he and referee Kevin Friend were the only ones who missed Antonio’s arm in Meslier’s face when the ball went into the goal mouth, and this would always be disallowed once Stockley Park pressed rewind.
Leeds should have been second at 64 minutes, but Klich wanted too much time and saw his 10-meter wide sting slip.
Tomas Soucek and Said Benrahma celebrated wildly before the attempt was disallowed for the foul
They paid the price just three minutes later when Jarrod cut Bowen in from the right and his shot made two deflections on Liam Cooper and Junior Firpo before misdirecting Meslier for 1-1.
And Meslier was left helpless again in the 90th minute when Declan Rice saw Antonio steaming down the center unattended. He negotiated the challenge from fullback Jamie Shackleton and, with Meslier hopelessly exposed, hid in the bottom corner.
Moyes, a bit foreboding to their rivals, admitted: “His finish was magical, but I don’t think it was one of his better games.”
Leeds, on the other hand, plays well and loses.