'There wasn't one day I didn't believe' says head coach Jesse Marsch after Leeds United survive drop

And so after all that Leeds United are staying up and will be playing their football in the top flight again next year.

By Tony Harber
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 9:23 am

In the end they finished three points clear of the relegation zone following their first away win over Brentford for 72 years and Burnley's home defeat to Newcastle United at the same time.

It was never quite as simple or straight forward as that with plenty of twists in the relegation fight over the last couple of months and one last day of trials and tribulations before the final outcome.

Leeds had a second half lead through Raphinha's penalty, Burnley were two down, it was looking good.

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Leeds United's two goal heroes against Brentford, Jack Harrison and Raphinha, celebrate together.

But Brentford levelled and a home goal at Turf Moor meant it was all on a knife edge again.

It helped that Brentford went down to nine men after losing a player to injury after making all three of their substitutions and having substitute - and goal scorer - Sergi Canos sent-off. But it was still in the balance until Jack Harrison's goal deep into injury-time finally sparked wild celebrations at the London ground and back home in West Yorkshire.

Throughout it all head coach Jesse Marsch has retained his belief in his players so it was sweet when he faced the media knowing his initial job was done - keep Leeds United in the Premier League.

He said: "I knew it was going to require all of my being when I came here and that proved to be true.

Celebration on the bench at the end of the Brentford game with head coach Jesse Marsch embracing injured Stuart Dallas.

"I heard a lot about Leeds United doing it hard way. Part of my job is to change that mentality to say we deserve more. We are an incredible club with an incredible team. We think we deserve what we have got.

"There wasn't one day I didn't believe. I never talked about being in the Championship.

"The stress has been high for 12 games, for three months, I've tried to stay calm, tried to keep the group focused on what we think matters - and that's us.

"There's so much that's been said about Marcelo versus me and things that have been said that counted us out. What are the tactics? And what is this? I get it, this is high level stuff and fans pay a lot of attention all over the world.

Kalvin Phillips leads the celebrations at Leeds United surviving relegation from the Premier League.

"It's not a perfect representation of what I want this team to be, but in this situation I think we came together really well and after the first two games to say we only lost the three giants and they each scored a goal in their first action down the pitch or first shot I still feel strongly about the group we have.

"I know we need to get better and we need to add some pieces, but I love this group, I love the team and I love their commitment and their spirit.

"I appreciate the fans saying my name, but that's not important to me, the group is the most important thing, we are Leeds United, we're not me, we're not Kalvin Phillips, we're not Liam Cooper, we're Leeds United, that's what we'll always be as long as I'm here."

On the game, Marsch paid tribute to the resilience of his players again as they came up with another important late goal.

He added: "It was a hot day and not easy for either team. We got the lead, which was really important. The start of the match was really good.

"When we were up two men we still didn't want to leave it up to fate and so we were trying to push for the winner to make sure we could secure our fate the way we wanted to.

"Four times this group has found a way to dig deep and in injury-time and find winners and goals that got us draws. The character is clear and it's a privilege to work with these guys.

"The goal was typical of our group, they never stop believing, it's a big compliment to our mentality."

With so much at stake it was unsurprising that United started a little nervously at Brentford, but the most attacking line-up selected by Marsch since he took over at Leeds began to find some space round the edges of the home defence.

A dangerous cross by Harrison just evaded several players in the box before Sam Greenwood - selected ahead of Mateusz Klich - was played in by Raphinha and ran to the edge of the box only to send his shot over.

For a short while it looked like Leeds had the start they craved when Joe Gelhardt put the ball in the net with an emphatic finish only to have his effort ruled out by VAR as he was inches offside when the ball was played to him.

Junior Firpo send a volley over and Raphinha was narrowly wide with a strong strike from outside the box as the Lilacs - as they were on this day in the kit in which they have not lost -were much the better team at this point.

That changed towards half-time as Brentford finally began to create chances. Bryan Mbeumo twice failed to find a good finish from promising positions while Mathias Jensen saw a chip turned over by Illan Meslier, Christian Eriksen saw a shot deflected wide and Yoane Wissa 's shot was straight at the Leeds keeper.

Half-time came at a good time for United, although they could have conceded in the opening minute of the second half as Mbeumo got clear again only to shoot straight at Meslier.

Leeds did up their game again as Raphinha found Rodrigo in the box and the Spanish international then saw his angled shot saved by David Raya.

The Brentford keeper was in the thick of the action soon after when his poor pass out led to him facing Raphinha in a one v one. As the Brazilian rounded him he was tripped by Raya and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot.

It was Leeds' first penalty in 2022 and Raphinha made no mistake for his 11th goal of the season.

Harrison had a chance to double the lead on the hour, but saw his shot easily saved by Raya.

The game then meandered for a while and Brentford manager Thomas Frank tried to liven his team up with three substitutions. It looked to have backfired when Kristoffer Ajer pulled up injured and had to go off, leaving the home team with 10 men on the pitch.

However, while both teams were adapting United were caught out on a break and Canos cleverly sent a looping header past Meslier to make it 1-1.

Now Leeds' survival chances were back in the balance, but they were helped when just two minutes after scoring Canos blatantly tripped Raphinha. He had been booked for taking his shirt off in celebrating his goal and was shown another yellow card to find himself making the long walk off.

Now it was 11 against nine and in the closing stages it was predictably all Leeds. Things remained on a knife edge, however, as substitute Klich shot wide and sent another effort straight at Raya. Raphinha sent a curling shot over and saw a further shot saved.

Harrison's shot was deflected over, but from the resulting corner the ball was only half-cleared to him on the edge of the box and this time the winger's strike from 20 yards found the target.

Cue wild scenes of jubilation and success for Leeds in their relegation fight.

Brentford 1

(Canos 78)

Leeds United 2

(Raphinha 56, pen, Harrison 90+4)

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Premier League

Brentford: Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Sorensen (Baptiste 71), Henry (Canos 64, sent-off 80); Jensen (Dasilva 58), Janelt, Eriksen; Mbeumo, Toney, Wissa.

Leeds: Meslier; Koch, Llorente, Cooper, Firpo; Phillips; Raphinha, Greenwood (Klich 85), Rodrigo, Harrison; Gelhardt (Struijk 71).

Referee: Paul Tierney.