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Leeds United at Brighton & Hove Albion: Three takeaways from a return-to-earth performance

It was a difficult night on the South Coast for the mighty Whites as Brighton proved their promotion credentials.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Phillips sent off, and United’s hopes went with him.
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Last night’s game at the Amex Stadium highlighted where Leeds United need to improve if they are to sustain a promotion challenge. The 2-0 loss after a Phillips red card and two converted penalty kicks was not enjoyable to watch, nor did it fit in with the current string of good feelings amongst the fanbase.

People will refer to the Phillips’ sending off as the major turning point in the game. However, prior to the sending off you could see the difference in class between both sides. Here's my three major talking points after the defeat at Brighton.

Talking point 1: Leeds’ inability to start with authority finally cost us

Throughout the whole season, the main negative I have had with Leeds United has been the fact that they have struggled to take control of the game in the first half. They seem to take 45 minutes to really get going, and against a quality side in Brighton, it ultimately cost us.

I expected Brighton to have most of the possession early in the game, but I also expected that Leeds would at least press the ball a little and put pressure on the Brighton defence. Instead, they just sat back and allowed Brighton to dictate the game.

This has been a common occurrence this season. We usually can soak up the pressure, and that has been key to Garry Monk’s strategy thus far, but last night, we were put right in our place. Furthermore, it highlights how much we rely on the back four. For the first time since August, our back four struggled and were made to look mediocre. Because of this, we were beaten with ease.

Talking point 2: The poor performance by referee Paul Tierney

I usually don’t have a go at referees, as we all have bad days at work. However, all of us at the TIAT office were fuming and somewhat bemused at some of the decisions Mr. Tierney made in the game. The first penalty decision was one he did get right. It was a clear handball, and Kalvin Philips knew straight away he was gone.

But the rest of his decisions annoyed LUFC fans. The Ayling booking was very soft and very early in the game, changing how he played for the remainder. As Johnny said in the live feed, it looked very much like both players just tripped. You had to wonder if we were playing at Elland Road if the call would have been different.

Then he decides to book Jansson - for what I don’t know - he must have been watching a different game than the rest of us.

Later on, after those calls, I was very surprised that he didn’t send Charlie Taylor off for the inch perfect tackle on the hour mark.

The final nail our coffin came two minutes after Kyle Bartley picked up his own yellow card, when Bartley was penalised for a pull in the box. It certainly looked like Lewis Dunk fell with theatrics, but those calls go 50/50. Brighton were once again awarded a penalty which they then converted and sealed the victory.

I know the performance was to blame for the loss, but Paul Tierney didn’t help matters.

Talking Point 3: Rob Green and Kalvin Phillips both to blame for early blunder

Rob Green seems to highlight his inability to be a reliable man in between the sticks when the Sky TV cameras are rolling. I have watched him put on some superb performances, but he seems to become Mr. Tumble and freeze with stage-fright every time he is on Sky Sports.

On the first penalty kick, the one that effectively ended the match as Phillips got his red, Green seemed to get tangled up with his own player and then decide to do a half-arsed ballet jump just for show. He should be getting up and claiming that ball.

After the shambles of QPR and Newcastle, people who have questioned his place in the team are getting louder and increasing in number. In this week’s Weekly Wednesday, staff writer Sean Ryan asked Leeds to use the January Window to add Alex McCarthy, someone we were rumoured to be interested in this summer, and his name has popped up some on Twitter as well.

Kalvin Phillips has come of age this season and deserved the MOTM award last week against Aston Villa, but I can’t for the life of me understand what drove him to handle the ball. Most people will say ‘to stop a goal you idiot,’ but the truth of the matter is that he knew the odds were very high he would be caught and that Leeds would have to suffer what is essentially 70 minutes of football a goal down and with ten men.

He clearly should have just let us concede, and we could have built from there. However, he made his biggest mistake of the season, and we lost as a result.

Overall, we lost, but Brighton are a top-quality side and I still firmly believe that we will earn promotion this season. We need to look at this game as a learning opportunity, and then act on what really needs to be done to stand a chance of promotion. MOT.