The Yorkshire Derby provided a slim chance for Leeds United to re-enter the Championship race, or at least raise the spirits of their fans, after a deflating defeat at Ipswich Tuesday night. Instead, fans have to be despondent over the club and its fate today, as twelve men dominated Leeds' eleven in an awful and memorable second half at Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon.
The team dominated the first half with chance after chance coming in the home team's box. The lone striker Souleymane Doukara, who scored 13 seconds into the game on Tuesday off an Ipswich mistake and then immediately went cold, had several chances in the first half including this ridiculous missed opportunity to take the lead:
To be fair, several players had an opportunity to score on that shot (and throughout the rest of the half), as Mustapha Carayol played crosses in but missed shots, and Lewis Cook and Stuart Dallas both had efforts turned away, and that was just in the first fifteen minutes. Cook and Dallas continued to create chances, but in the absence of Chris Wood (and Sam Byram... let's not go there), someone needed to step up and score goals, and in the first half Leeds just wasn't able to finish (we've said this before, eh?). You had to go into the half confident though, as Leeds really did dominate the run of play.
HT: Sheff Wed 0 Leeds 0. Leeds with the better chances and plenty of the game. Should have scored. It's all quite cagey and tense though.— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) January 16, 2016
It took literally five minutes in the second half for all of that momentum to turn to dust as Sheffield came out on a mission from halftime. Two minutes in, former Leeds target Fernando Forestieri sent a ball toward goal and Gary Hooper put it in. Three minutes later, Hooper scored another when Marco Silvestri spilled a Forestieri shot back into his box, and the game was functionally over. From the run of play in the first to down 2-0 in the 50th minute, Leeds had collapsed.
As a fan, I considered turning the game off and enjoying my Saturday as best as I could, but of course, as a true fan, I couldn't. I listened to the next 25 minutes dreaming of a solid back four, a striker, a keeper that didn't make those mistakes... and then the game started to shift back to Leeds as Sheffield Wednesday started to play defense first. A chance for Dallas, an offside for Doukara, a sub of Antenucci and an immediate chance... maybe there was hope?
That's when this game became a talking point and the epitome of Leeds United's tenure in the Football League. In the 78th minute, Forestieri was subbed off for Lucas Joao, and as he took his sweet time getting off the pitch, referee Anthony Taylor whistled for the Leeds corner kick. The ball came in and found the back of the net, and Leeds fans erupted. It was 1-2 now, with a chance to really take it to Sheffield like we did in the first. And then it wasn't.
After granting the goal, Taylor disallowed it and ruled that Leeds needed to retake the corner. Steve Evans was incensed, the players furious, and mayhem took over Hillsborough.
Dramatic stuff at Hillsborough. @LUFC have a goal ruled out after an incomplete substitution, & then have an effort cleared off the line.— The Football League (@football_league) January 16, 2016
The football leagues corrupt— Anthony (@Fractured_Box) January 16, 2016
Is that the most Leeds thing ever to happen to Leeds? #LUFC— The Square Ball (@TheSquareBall) January 16, 2016
There's probably been a #lufc petition started to award that goal. Will come from Facebook and randomly mention LFU being potless.— I'd Radebe Leeds (@Radebe_Leeds) January 16, 2016
It really was the most ridiculous thing I've seen on the pitch this season. Taylor awarded the goal, then took it away, a decision rarely (if ever) taken by a referee. Leeds could've pushed on from there for the equalizer, but instead lost their momentum and wobbled to the inevitable 2-0 finish.
Taylor is not entirely to blame for the loss to be sure; Leeds had their chances in the first and couldn't finish, and Sheffield Wednesday's two goals at the start of the second were due to our inept and error-prone back four. But goodness, that felt like much-needed points stolen from the Whites. Conspiracy theories always abound about the Football League wanting to keep Leeds from promotion, and this game won't help stifle those. Taylor would eventually apologize for his mistake, but the team's official account tweeted this after the game:
Leeds United now sits at 17th in the Championship, 8 points clear of relegation and 13 away from the playoff. We'll have coverage for you the rest of this week and next and the week after that, but surely this season ended Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday.
Now, we hope for an FA Cup run, for long-term contracts for our remaining young stars, and for Cellino to sell or get his act together fast. Thanks for reading, leave your thoughts in the comments below. #MOT