As Paul Simon once said, "Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again." That is how I’ve felt quite a bit over the past few years when I’ve come to write a Leeds United review. This morning is no different, a day after dropping points at Elland Road to Queens Park Rangers in the final minutes.
My angst today has not just come from the fact we once again threw away a lead, but more the manner of how we did it, combined with the Romanian twitter faithful RaLUFC reminding me that it was 15 years ago yesterday that Leeds United lined up as below, and battered La Liga Champions of the time Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 in the Champions League. As Leeds fans we get little reminders all the time of how we have declined of the past two decades, but for some reason yesterday really saddened me.
Perhaps it was because I remember that game vividly and is still to this day one of my favorite games as a Leeds fan. Perhaps it was because the current La Liga champions were playing in the Champions League again, and I couldn’t think of two teams more not alike that that of Leeds United and Barcelona.
The morning after, however, I am not less saddened by this fact, and more so by the one that Leeds don’t just draw or lose by not playing that well overall, we don’t lose or draw due to a stunning goal from opposition teams. No, more often than not, Leeds United draw or lose football matches because of ridiculous individual footballing errors, and this as a fan, is very hard to take.
Paul Rahubka, Steve Morrison, Scott Wootton…….Giuseppe Bellusci? Okay okay, He’s not that bad. I have defended (not pun intended) Bellusci more times than I can remember this season; he is a genuine warrior and has put in some of the best center back performances I’ve seen in a white shirt in several years (editor throws a tomato at Matt, asks him to continue). Like many current and past center backs we have had though, every now and then he has a total bomb scare and either gets sent off, attempts overhead kicks or gives away daft penalties.
Evans said in his post match press conference that "Bellusci is a very good player. In a couple of games he’s done a couple of things you wouldn’t expect of him." But I say "Evans, you’re wrong," in response. We do expect these things from him; not every game, but one in every five games at least. So what do you do with a player like Bellusci? Toss him aside like the aforementioned liabilities or stick by him and just accept that in the most recent past he is a competent, solid defender, that every now and then will lose you points. Those are the only two options I can see.
I don’t know the answer to that question in all honesty, and I go back and forth. I said before this game that now we have nothing to play for in the league, players should be pulling on the shirt for pride, and to try and retain the shirt for next season. It's hard to say over the last two games that Bellusci, not to mention several others, are not really filling either criteria. Leeds did deserve to win the game last night, I honestly believe that. It wasn’t a great performance by any stretch, but it was one deserving of 3 points at home. And there were some pleasing aspects. Like this...
Chris Wood getting what I would call a "proper striker’s goal" is great to see. A lovely assist from Luke Murphy and a poacher's finish, we'll take that every time. But then throw into the mixer Bellusci practically falling into Polter to give away the penalty and 2 points. It’s very hard to leave Elland Road and not just feel a mixture of anger, sadness and an overwhelming feeling of this just now being a "classic Leeds" performance.
What did you think of the game? Is this the best we can expect from Leeds for the remainder of the season? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading. On to Saturday.