Leeds United took on Yorkshire rivals Rotherham United at the New York Stadium in an effort to take a lead on top of the table while the number two and number three sides, Sheffield United and Norwich City, played each other at Carrow Road.
Leeds went behind in the first half, but battled back in the second half behind a brace from Mateusz Klich. With the draw at Carrow Road, Leeds took the opportunity to extend their lead on top of the table.
Clarke and Harrison have swapped wings. Rotherham's game plan is working in the early stages, forcing Leeds to look for difficult 30/40-yard passes. 0-0 on 24 mins. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) January 26, 2019
Rotherham kept Leeds at bay for much of the first half, as while the South Yorkshire side seemed content to allow Leeds to have the bulk of the possession, they played in a compact defensive shape that seemed to limit Leeds’ time and space in the final third.
top finish but given too much space to shoot in a central position. Big test of Leeds now. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) January 26, 2019
And then just before the half-hour mark, because Leeds can’t have nice things, Rotherham scored the opening goal. Semi Ajayi was given far, far too long on the ball in midfield, and he made Leeds pay with a thunderbolt of a shot from about 20 yards out. No chance for the keeper to make a save as the rising shot was always headed to the top corner. A good goal that from a shot that wouldn’t have been allowed earlier in the season.
The rest of the half saw Leeds start to put a little more pressure on Rotherham, but none of it was very convincing and Rotherham sat back and defended even more after the goal than before it, which is saying something. A couple of free kicks gone astray and a good shot from Jack Harrison, who was somehow the most dangerous Leeds player in the first half, was all that Leeds could manage.
HALF TIME: Rotherham head into the break with a 1-0 lead after Semi Ajayi's 29th minute opener pic.twitter.com/m9rx8NEPCr— Leeds United (@LUFC) January 26, 2019
Tyler Roberts was brought on for Jack Clarke at halftime, as Leeds looked to chase the game and try and salvage something from the match.
As beautiful as Rotherham’s opening goal was, and as wonderful as Leeds have played this season, it was a properly garbage goal that drew the sides level. Mateusz Klich may, or may not, have nudged the ball forward with his shoulder, and after the Rotherham keeper and central defender flailed at the ball, Klich poked the ball past Marek Rodák, the Fulham loanee who is in goal for Rotherham.
Casilla showed why he used to play for the three-time Champions League winner Real Madrid about the half-hour mark as he saved a goal-bound shot from Rotherham’s Will Vaulks that absolutely would have gone in to the goal if pretty much any of the other Leeds keepers from the past few years would have been in net. A fine save from a good keeper for Leeds.
Kemar Roofe and Gjanni Alioski both came close before the 70th minute, as Leeds started to dial up the pressure and Rotherham started to fade, allowing more time and space for Leeds going forward. Roberts going centrally sent Hernandez out wide, and his creativity from the wing started to start cause some problems for the hosts.
Roofe had another decent chance in the 83rd minute after Phillips had put a long pass right in the box for Roofe to run on to. Rodak and Sean Raggett got to the ball at the same time as Roofe, and Raggett had to clear the ball out for a corner kick. On another day, Roofe would have been able to get a better first touch and score a goal, but that wasn’t in the cards today.
However, Klich would pop up and get a critical goal for Leeds late on. After Harrison had tried to pick out Roberts just inside the box, the ball pinged around for a moment and Klich took a stab at the ball and sent it behind the keeper to send the visiting Leeds fans behind the goal into ecstasy.
Harrison came off for Jamie Shackleton soon afterwards and Pablo Hernandez came off in stoppage time for Leif Davis as Bielsa looked to see the game off.
Roberts had to be treated a few times late on and Casilla was given a yellow card for time wasting in stoppage time, but Leeds were able to see out the rest of the match and grab a critical three points in their chase for automatic promotion.