Leeds United fell to a second Premier League defeat in a row as the Yorkshire club’s poor home form continued against a solid West Ham side.
Leeds took on West Ham United on Friday, having only won a single game at home this season, a 4-3 win vs Fulham back in September. The Whites were trying to recover ground on the top ten after a disappointing defeat on the road at Chelsea had dropped Marcelo Bielsa’s men down to 15th on the table.
Meanwhile, Moyes’ West Ham was hoping for a win that would move them into the Premier League top five. The London side had been on a brilliant run ahead of their loss to Manchester United last week and would be aiming to get to winning ways against a Leeds side that had one of the worst defensive records in the league.
Both managers were forced into changes ahead of the game. Michail Antonio was still unavailable for the Hammers and was joined on the sidelines by Arthur Masuaku, who had been in great form recently, Said Benrahma stepped in to make his full debut as David Moyes reverted to a back four for the first time since the opening day defeat to Newcastle. Bielsa was also forced into a change, with both Robin Koch and Diego Llorente unavailable through injury, Rodrigo moved into the team and the Leeds backline shifted across, with Luke Ayling filling into the centre of defence.
The game started very quickly. Liam Cooper dispossessed Sebastian Haller on the halfway line brilliantly, played the ball into Mateusz Klich in the middle of the West Ham half and the Pole found the run of Patrick Bamford with a defence-splitting pass. Leeds’ top scorer collected well, knocked the ball past the onrushing Lucasz Fabianski and was promptly felled by the veteran ‘keeper inside the box. A penalty was given almost immediately and, despite missing his first attempt, Klich was granted a second opportunity when VAR concluded that the West Ham goalkeeper had stepped off his line a moment too early, Klich converted the retake and Leeds went ahead.
Much like when Leeds went ahead early against Chelsea last week, there was an overriding feeling that the match was far from over, and so it proved. Sebastian Haller had a decent chance in the Leeds box within a few minutes of his side going behind, but Luke Ayling was close enough to block the shot before it could trouble Illan Meslier in the Leeds net.
Leeds tried to double their advantage, Rodrigo came close with a volley after some superlative work down the left by Jack Harrison, it was not to be. Within minutes, Leeds’ weakness had once again reared its ugly head as Thomas Soucek equalized from a corner. This put Leeds equal with Leicester City in terms of most goals conceded from set-pieces.
The game slowed at this point as West Ham reverted to a strong defensive shape in an attempt to keep the scores level going into the break. Leeds did their best to break them down, Raphinha found Rodrigo with a great pass in behind. The Spaniard turned on a sixpence and unleashed a ferocious shot toward goal, it was well saved by Fabianski and the teams were equal after 45 minutes.
Marcelo Bielsa, clearly unhappy with his team’s first-half performance, brought on Jamie Shackleton and Helder Costa, the former nearly made an instant impression. A brilliant run down the right saw Shackleton play the ball into the feet of Patrick Bamford, the striker swivelled on the edge of the box and his shot went just wide of the goal.
The game became cagey and the best opportunities came from attempts from distance. Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich tested the West Ham goalkeeper and Said Benrahma went close with a 20-yard attempt from the right side of the box. It became clear that it was going to take something special to break the deadlock. Illan Meslier made an astounding save to prevent a point-blank Fabian Balbuena header from hitting the back of the net.
Frustratingly, it wasn’t enough for Leeds. Helder Costa gave a foul away on the edge of his own area and it was no surprise to see West Ham convert through the impressive Angelo Ogbonna. Another set-piece.
At that point, the game was pretty much over and though Leeds should have equalised through Rodrigo when the striker was presented a golden chance. An inch=perfect Luke Ayling cross found Rodrigo’s head a few yards from goal but the former Valencia man didn’t get enough contact on the ball and Fabianski claimed it easily.
So two losses in a row now for Leeds United, and possible their two worst performances of the season. The Elland Road side is now looking forward to a run of fixtures that pitch time against teams surrounding them in the table, they must win some of those games if they want to push forward in the Premier League this season.
Illan Meslier – 7
Stuart Dallas – 5
Luke Ayling – 7
Liam Cooper – 6
Ezjan Alioski – 5
Kalvin Phillps – 6
Raphinha – 6
Mateusz Klich – 6
Rodrigo – 6
Jack Harrison – 6
Patrick Bamford – 6
Jamie Shackleton – 7
Helder Costa – 4
Tyler Roberts – 5