If anyone was to tell me before this game that Leeds United were going to win on penalties at Fleetwood Town, I probably would have laughed and called you deluded. Even with my 3-1 prediction before the game, I didn’t think the Whites would struggle for 89 minutes of the game. I was wrong.
Leeds traveled to play League 1 side Fleetwood Town, a team who has never advanced past the 1st round of the English Football League Cup since the club was created in 1997. It was a rainy night, and the weather seemed to perfectly fit Leeds’ performance: gloomy. When the starting lineups were confirmed, I, like many of my fellow Leeds fans, was excited because newly acquired Pablo Hernandez was in the starting XI.
#lufc team vs @ftfc: Green, Coyle, Bartley, Cooper, Taylor, Phillips, Vieira, Hernandez, Sacko, Roofe, Wood. #EFLCup— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
The Spaniard, here on loan from Al-Arabi, was surely going to make a huge impact on the game, and he did. Hernandez couldn’t do everything himself though, and after a terrible start to the game, Fleetwood Town opened up their scoring account in the 13th minute.
13. GOAL: @ftfc open the scoring (1-0) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
The goal came from a Fleetwood Town corner. The ball was swung in from the right and fell to Amarii Bell. The ball bounced around in the box after coming off of Bell, and fell right to the feet of Aaron Amadi-Holloway, who used his left foot and struck it past Rob Green.
When this goal was conceded, I was gutted. I was disappointed by the lack of chemistry the boys were playing with, and I felt like it was only a matter of time before Fleetwood capitalized on more of our mistakes. It’s almost as if Leeds had pressed the reset button. Last year, we had the likes of Byram and Cook, and their chemistry along with Taylor and Wood was a delight to see. Now, we are here without Cook and Byram, and it seems as though our boys are struggling to find solid ground.
The game continued to frustrate, we were going to lose to a lower-division side, a side that Leeds should have no problem playing against. After a few botched shots by Phillips and Sacko, I muttered “Here we go again!” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! Our closest attack in the first half came in the 37th minute thanks to none other, than our “Magical Spanish Maestro,” Pablo Hernandez.
37. #lufc break and Hernandez dinks in a cross towards Wood, who goes down under pressure but the referee waves play on (1-0)— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
The first half whistle blew and I buried my head in my hands. Only one and a half games into this new campaign, and it already felt like we hadn’t learned a single lesson from last season. The first half was flat and our only bright spot was Pablo Hernandez.
Sol Bamba came on for Liam Cooper at half, and the second half was entirely different. In quick succession, Wood headed over a cross from Charlie Taylor, and Roofe curled a free kick over the crossbar. The score was still the same, but a goal was coming surely!
From the 65th minute and beyond, Fleetwood Town was in a park-the-bus mindset, and Leeds were in all-out-attack. Leeds had chance after chance, corner after corner, and cross after cross, but no goal was produced. Our backs were against the wall, which is when Garry Monk made the best decision of the young season: he subbed on Marcus Antonsson.
Marcus Antonsson is probably the most popular person in Yorkshire this morning. The newly transferred Swede sparked even more life into the losing side. After missed chances from Hernandez and Wood in the 80th and 88th minute respectively, it took one strike from our “super sub” to tie the game up for Leeds.
Marcus Antonsson GOAL v Fleetwood #LUFC由 We Are Leeds MOT 貼上了 2016年8月10日
I almost pulled a muscle in my back and lost my voice when Antonsson scored. I did my best attempt at an inspirational quote and said to no one in particular, “Where there is Antonsson, there is hope!”
A much deserved goal turned the tide, and it gave the 1,325 travelling Leeds supporters something to go bonkers about. The ref blew his whistle 5 minutes later, and we were heading to extra time.
The first half of extra time started off exactly how Garry Monk & Co. wanted it to. A beautiful through ball was placed for Antonsson, who was brought down in the box, and the ref didn’t hesitate to award Leeds the penalty. Moments later, Chris Wood confidently stood up over the ball, and slotted it home past the keeper.
Chris Wood penalty v Fleetwood #LUFC由 We Are Leeds MOT 貼上了 2016年8月10日
The first half of extra time ended with Leeds in front, thanks to the penalty and a few decent saves by Rob Green. All Leeds United needed to do was hang on for 15 more minutes, then we all could “Move On Together.”
Sadly, Fleetwood Town found the goal they needed. In the 111th minute, the ball was fizzed in from the right hand side, and with poor marking by our two center-backs, Ashley Hunter one timed the ball past Green, into the back of the net. The match was far from over.
The ref blew his whistle after 120 minutes. Leeds United were to take the first penalty in the shootout, and up stepped Chris Wood. The whole shootout is laid out for you down below:
GOAL! Wood converts his penalty! (1-0) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL for @ftfc: Bobby Grant slots home from the spot (1-1) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL! Antonsson scores for #lufc! (2-1)— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL for @ftfc: Jimmy Ryan puts his penalty away (2-2) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL! Mowatt scores! (3-2) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL for @ftfc: McLaughlin converts his penalty (3-3) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL! Phillips tucks away his spot-kick! (4-3) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL for @ftfc: Hunter converts (4-4) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
GOAL! Hernandez scores! (5-4) #lufc— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
SAVED! Green keeps out Jonsson's penalty to send #lufc through! (5-4) #EFLCup— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 10, 2016
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, Rob Green saves the day. What a finish.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A thrilling game made many Leeds fans, including myself, happy. We dug through adversity and saw the potential this team has, in the second half onward at least. Pablo Hernandez will probably be our Club Player of the Season, and Marcus Antonsson will be our talisman. Next in the Cup we will go up against Luton Town, a team who thrashed Aston Villa 3-1. But for now, let’s celebrate because the Cup could be ours this year! Let’s Move On Together!