Leeds United fell to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat away to League 2 Crawley Town in the FA Cup today as John Yems’ side launched the shock of the round.
Marcelo Bielsa named a weakened side for the game, giving starts to Kiko Casilla, Leif Davis, Jamie Shackleton, Helder Costa and Ian Poveda, but also included a number of first-team regulars as the Argentine looked to progress in the competition.
The Crawley side that they were up against were in the midst of a long unbeaten run and were certainly confident that they had the ability to unbalance a changed Leeds United side.
The game started off relatively slowly, with no notable chances until the 15th minute, when Ezgjan Alioski played Ian Poveda in at a narrow angle, only for the young winger’s shot to come off the leg of Morris in the Crawley goal and bounce wide.
Poveda was the spark for Leeds in the opening exchanges, his looped cross towards Rodrigo was just out of the Spaniard’s reach and his dribbling ability was creating issues for the Crawley defence. This continued to be the case when the young winger humiliated a defender with a disgusting flip-flap i side the opposition area before playing the ball back to Pascal Struijk on the edge of the area. The Dutchman laid the ball across to Pablo Hernandez, who dinked the ball into the path of Helder Costa. His first-time cross was perfectly waited to Rodrigo’s head, but the Spanish striker was tugged down inside the box. A penalty was not goven, but perhaps should have been.
There were limited chances from this point onwards, Rodrigo turned on the edge of the box and fired wide for Leeds and Nicholls drew a good save from Kiko Casilla after a loose Kalvin Phillips pass had granted the home side a corner.
At half-time, the score was 0-0 and Marcelo Bielsa clearly wasn’t happy at all with the performance, making three changes at the break. Rodrigo was brought off for Jack Harrison, Liam Cooper, who made his return from injury in the first half, was replaced by Oliver Casey and Pascal Struijk came off for debutant, Jack Jenkins.
The changes seemed to weaken the side rather than have the desired effect and after only five minutes of second half action Crawley went ahead. A brilliant goal by Tsaroulla, which saw him spin past Jamie Shackleton and speed beyond Kalvin Phillips before planting a perfect finish into the back of the Leeds net.
Leeds would have to respond quickly in order to get back into the game against such a defensively astute side but instead the reverse happened, the speedy Nadesan got in behind the Leeds defence and somehow squeezed a shot past Kiko Casilla at his near post. It was woeful goalkeeping from the Spaniard and should quieten anyone calling for him to replace Meslier in the first team.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were truly chasing the game now, Helder Costa had a chance from a Jamie Shackleton cross after Pablo Hernandez had found the run of the Leeds youth, but it was just ahead of the Portugese winger and the score remained 2-0.
Bielsa, in a last ditch attempt to change the game, brought on Raphinha and Same Greenwood for Leif Davis and Poveda and the attacking power that Leeds now had on the pitch offered a small bit of hope that there was a way back into the game for the Yorkshire side.
Alas, Crawley scored again. A set piece header was saved by Casilla right into the path of Jordan Tunnicliffe and that was the game done. It was nearly four, when Casilla lunged in outside his area on Crawley top scorer Watters and failed to make contact with either the ball, or the man. Fortunately, Olly Casey was there to recover or it could have been an even more embarrassing result for Leeds United