Leeds United boss Javi Gracia left with mixed emotions and explains substitute decisions against Leicester

A point gained or two dropped, only time will tell, but Leeds United's attempts to defend the lead they gained in the 20th minute ultimately were not successful as they drew 1-1 with relegation rivals Leicester City on a night of mixed emotions at Elland Road.
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The Whites backed off in the second half with a low defensive block designed to nullify Leicester's ability to break quickly and it succeeded in making it difficult for the visitors. But it led to frustration in the stands with United playing little football until the closing stages after they had been finally pegged back.

Negative chants from the crowd surfaced from time to time with calls for substitutes and Willy Gnonto in particular falling on deaf ears. However, there was enough for the fans to get behind in a much more spirited showing than the previous two home games and the team showed the kind of fight they are going to need to get out of trouble.

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More positives came in the performances of midfielder Weston McKennie and goalkeeper Illan Meslier who came in for much criticism for their recent displays, but were among Leeds' best performers this time – in the first half at least with McKennie.

Patrick Bamford puts his hands on his head after firing over from close range in the closing stages of Leeds United's game against Leicester City.Patrick Bamford puts his hands on his head after firing over from close range in the closing stages of Leeds United's game against Leicester City.
Patrick Bamford puts his hands on his head after firing over from close range in the closing stages of Leeds United's game against Leicester City.

Head coach Javi Gracia was disappointed, though, at only picking up a point.

He said: "We have one more point, but after competing the game as we did, starting, leading and managing for the most part it's hard to get only one point.

"Even after conceding we had the most clearest chance from a corner with Marc Roca. We have to keep going, to prepare the next game as best as possible and try to get the three points.

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"Before the game we knew the game would be important. We started well and after starting winning we had to kill the game, but it wasn't possible."

Gracia answered fans who were calling for the substitutes in the second half.

He added: "I can understand all the feelings my supporters have but my job is try to take decisions and I try to take them thinking what is best for the team.

"In this game Willy (Gnonto) could play, Georgi (Rutter), Adam (Forshaw) could play, but when you are there and you have to decide you always look for what is best for the team. Knowing they're very good players and in the next game for sure they will help the team.

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"The position to be stronger was Brenden in front of two midfielders, with three players there to try and be a bit stronger without losing the options in counter and to have more options to attack.

"After that I tried to look for the option to substitute another player but I didn't find the best opportunity.

"I can feel the supporters are with the team. It's difficult, we have to be strong because there are other teams in the same situation. It's important to manage the situation. I would like to thank the support."

Leeds rode their luck in the early stages to stay in the match with Leicester looking to have gone ahead in the seventh minute when a corner was not cleared and Youri Tielemans smacked a superb 20-yard shot into the top corner of the net.

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But VAR came to the rescue as Boubakary Soumare, who teed up Tielemans, had come from an offside position to do so.

The warning was not heeded as United gave possession away cheaply to allow the Foxes more attacking chances. Only a great block by Liam Cooper prevented Harvey Barnes from getting his usual goal against Leeds then James Maddison was left free at the far post, but on the stretch was unable to divert Kelechi Iheanacho's low cross into the net.

It was certainly against the run of play when the home team went ahead as Jack Harrison sent in a fine cross from the right and fellow winger Luis Sinisterra ghosted in at the far post to head home.

Roared on by a supportive crowd at this stage, another opportunity was soon created as keeper Daniel Iversen charged out of his box to clear a dangerous through ball with his head.

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He only succeeded in sending the ball straight to Luke Ayling, but the United right-back's first time shot from distance went straight to back to a grateful Iversen.

The rest of the first half saw both sides huff and puff without offering much of a goal threat and it stayed 1-0 to half-time.

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Leeds had a couple of decent chances early in the second half, but on the first of them Rodrigo took too long to get a shot away and saw his effort blocked then on the second he headed well over.

Leicester gradually got on top from that point with Leeds defending deep and struggling to keep any sort of hold on the ball.

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The visitors struggled to create any clear chances apart from one for Barnes who fired over after the ball appeared to go out of play in the build-up.

Meslier was finally called into action in the 72nd minute when he tipped Soumare's shot wide then made a stunning follow-up save to deny Patson Daka from close range. The latter was flagged offside, but the home keeper did not know that and he received a supportive ovation for his fine stop.

Meslier was out smartly to save at the feet of Iheanacho soon after and Wout Faes sent an acrobatic volley over from a corner.

An equaliser looked increasingly likely and came from substitute Jamie Vardy who was left with a simple finish when Iheanacho skipped past a weak tackle by Cooper then Maddison slipped the former England striker in to make it 1-1.

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Vardy had the ball in the net again three minutes from time, but was rightly ruled offside to the relief of the home fans.

With chants of "make a sub" ringing round the ground Leeds suddenly woke up and could have snatched a late winner themselves.

Ayling forced a corner with a shot that was deflected over and from it Marc Roca's header was saved by Iversen then cleared off the line by Victor Kristiansen.

The ball was quickly delivered back in and Brenden Aaronson's angled shot was saved by Iversen's feet.

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From the next corner the ball then fell at the feet of Patrick Bamford, but he fired over from inside the six-yard box. Although hands were on heads all round the ground and on the pitch he may have been offside, however, so it was not the big miss it initially looked.

(Sinisterra 20)

Leicester City 1

(Vardy 80)

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Premier League

Attendance: 36,666

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Firpo; Roca, McKennie; Harrison, Rodrigo (Aaronson 68), Sinisterra (Summerville 32); Bamford.

Leicester: Iversen; Castagne, Faes, Soyuncu, Kristiansen; Soumare, Tielemans; Tete (Vardy 70), Maddison, Barnes (Daka 70); Iheanacho (Praet 81).

Referee: Paul Tierney.