Leeds United conceded twice in the final twenty minutes against Southampton to cancel out Rodrigo’s brace on what is believed to be the hottest day in the Premier League, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees.
Despite rumours that a number of Leeds United shirts were at the bottom of the ocean, Leeds were able to debut their new yellow tye-dye away shirt. After a winning start at Elland Road against Wolves, Leeds were unchanged and further strengthened with the additions of Sinisterra, Forshaw and James to the bench.
Jesse names an unchanged Starting XI, whilst Forshaw, Sinisterra and James feature on the bench pic.twitter.com/OatPBxJufY— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 13, 2022
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side on the other hand came into this one under some pressure. After a very disappointing 4-1 opening day defeat, rumours of dressing room unhappiness began to swirl with a number of players allegedly unhappy with the Austrian’s management. The Saints had finished the season picking up just 5 points from their final 36 and the performance against Spurs had done little to ease those feelings.
Diego Llorente prompted the first real incident of the game near the quarter-hour mark when Stuart Armstrong was played through, breaking from the halfway line. The Southampton man attempted to sprint clear but Llorente slid in, making contact with the ball. The challenge lead to a check from VAR who decided he had no case to answer.
Leeds’ first chance of the game came shortly after as Patrick Bamford attempted to flick in a low cross at the near post but couldn’t direct the effort on target. Meanwhile, Stuart Armstrong continued to cause Leeds problems as he had Southampton’s first chance from the edge of the penalty area. Fortunately, an unsighted Meslier wasn’t troubled as the ball bounced wide.
Leeds would have cause for concern before half an hour as Patrick Bamford went off with what is believed to be a groin injury. With Joe Gelhardt absent Dan James came on to partner Rodrigo. The injuries will cause further distress amongst the fans who already felt Leeds were light on strikers.
Leeds had an excellent chance to take the lead with ten minutes of the half remaining. An out-swinging corner was flicked on at the near post and arrived at the head of Rasmus Kristensen but, put off Dan James in front of him, didn’t generate the power needed to beat Bazunu for what would have been the opening goal.
Jack Harrison was carded after a late challenge on Bella-Kotchap while turning which saw a stoppage to the game from treatment. Rasmus Kristensen quickly followed him into the book after bringing down Moussa Djenepo from cutting inside in the final third.
Leeds got off to the perfect start to the second half after Southampton failed to fully clear from a cross on the left-hand side. The ball came back to Harrison and his low cross was turned in by Rodrigo at the near post, the Spaniard getting his second goal in as many games. From this point on Leeds looked lively, pressing well and causing Southampton problems.
Tyler Adams was the next player to give Leeds fans a scare after he went down and received treatment from a post-challenge collision, although the central midfielder returned to action quickly once play restarted.
Leeds doubled their advantage from another cross. This time the out-swinging cross of Brenden Aaronson was met by Pascal Struijk, whose looping header dipped over Bazunu in the Southampton goal, and was stolen at the last possible second by Rodrigo with a gentle header on the line. The Yorkshire side, up to this point, had looked more dangerous from set pieces, with both Harrison and Aaronson delivering crosses that caused issues for the Southampton back-line.
Southampton got themselves back into the game with a breakaway down their left, Adam Armstrong squaring the ball across the Leeds penalty area to Joe Aribo. The former Rangers man kept his composure to round Illan Meslier and find a between several recovering Leeds bodies to reduce the deficit and score his first goal for The Saints.
Southampton began to play with renewed vigour, reverting back to the 4-2-2-2 they were accustomed to, they began to gain more traction and start causing Leeds problems for the first sustained period, so it came as no surprise when the home side levelled. Southampton’s equaliser was the result of Leeds conceding a free kick deep in their opponent's half. Goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu’s long free kick was brought down well. Substitute Sekou Mara then played a defence-splitting pass to play in Kyle Walker-Peters who fired low past Meslier to level the scores.
Rodrigo had hopes of completing his hat-trick and stealing the victory after being played in by a volleyed pass from Klich but Bazunu came out well and denied him. Leeds finished off with a final half chance as a quick corner arrived for Diego Llorente but the Spain international sliced his strike high and wide.
Rodrigo: "We're really disappointed" pic.twitter.com/aGY8QePcmT— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 13, 2022
Come the final whistle, it was hard not to look at Jesse Marsch. In the heat Leeds tired by the midway point of the second half and never really recovered. The rest of the substitutions came after the equaliser and were left with little time to impact the game. Better game management will be needed going forward, and we can’t simply rely upon Harrison and Aaronson to run for 90 minutes every week.