A goal from the returning Patrick Bamford in second-half stoppage time earned Leeds a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Brentford on Sunday afternoon.
A typically frenzied start to proceedings soon fizzled out as both sides struggled to get to grips with the personnel problems each had been dealt. Leeds captain Liam Cooper hobbled off after a quarter of an hour, forcing a reshuffle that saw Marcelo Bielsa introduce the winger Jack Harrison for his centre back.
The enforced replacement rippled through Leeds‘ side as they struggled to engage Brentford as high up the pitch as they are famed for. The Bees endured issues in the same zone themselves. Robbed of the direct option the absent Ivan Toney offers, Brentford had to play their way through the Leeds pressure.
After recovering rapidly to quash a number of turnovers on halfway, Brentford paid the price for another giveaway 27 minutes in. Tyler Roberts began the move with an interception in midfield, scuttling into the box while Raphinha had his first cross blocked. At the second attempt the talismanic Brazilian picked out Roberts sliding into the six yard to break the deadlock.
A stunning save from Brentford’s Alvaro Fernandez prevented Leeds doubling their lead on 50 minutes, as he clawed Luke Ayling’s header out of the top corner from Raphinha’s set piece.
Within five minutes Brentford had struck back themselves. Rico Henry muscled Stuart Dallas off the ball by Leeds’ right hand corner flag, and found Sergi Canos inside the penalty area. Brentford’s regular wing-back – drafted into the frontline in Toney’s absence – had his cross deflect kindly into the path of Shandon Baptiste to fire Brentford level.
Buoyed by their equaliser, the entire Brentford team seemingly shifted up the pitch. Taking their turn to pen Leeds into their defensive third, Brentford exploited another vertebrae robbed from the hosts’ spine when Kalvin Phillips was forcibly removed in the wake of Baptiste’s leveller.
Moments after nodding over from close range, Canos made no mistake with a crisp finish inside the box to cap off a slick interchange from the Bees following a high turnover.
Yet, just as the game threatened to squirm out of Leeds’ grasp, Bamford sent a dagger into the heart of Brentford with a last gasp equaliser, stabbing a 95th-minute corner in at the back post to cap off his first appearance since mid-September in style.
Here are your player ratings for both teams…
Illan Meslier (GK) – 4/10 – Shaky in possession throughout, Meslier desperately struggled to pick out a teammate under pressure or not.
Luke Ayling (CB) – 6/10 – On his first senior appearance since mid-September, the much-missed fullback almost crowned his return with a goal but competed well in a fast-paced and physical encounter.
Diego Llorente (CB) – 5/10 – Failed to imbue any sense of composure or control when anchoring the back-three in his captain’s absence.
Liam Cooper (CB) – N/A – Landing awkwardly when trying to block Bryan Mbeumo’s wayward half-volley, the Leeds skipper was forced off clutching the back of his right thigh inside the opening 15 minutes.
Stuart Dallas (RWB) – 5/10 – The infamously unflappable plug for any hole in the Leeds side was far too weak for Brentford’s equaliser.
Kalvin Phillips (CM) – 7/10 – Hovering behind Leeds’ buzzing breakaways, Phillips shrugged off any suggestions of a rift between the manager and himself by effectively carrying out the screening role Bielsa morphed him into. Leeds felt his absence after he went down injured while the score was 1-0.
Adam Forshaw (CM) – 6/10 – Swiftly restored to more of a containing role after the starting the game with some rare attacking licence.
Junior Firpo (LWB) – 6/10 – Forced into a more defensive role after Cooper’s early departure, Firpo certainly didn’t shirk away from a tackle.
Raphinha (RW) – 6/10 – Like a moth to a flame, the flailing boots of many a Brentford leg painfully and repeatedly connected with the dancing feet of the number ten.
Tyler Roberts (ST) – 7/10 – In the right place at the right time for the opener, Roberts did let the blood rush to his head when he found himself in promising positions thereafter.
Daniel James (LW) – 6/10 – Ferreting around the pitch with great enthusiasm on and off the ball, James failed to couple his energy with end product.
Jack Harrison (LWB) – 6/10 – Lumbered with the task of covering almost the entirety of Leeds’ left flank after the early switch to a 3-5-2.
Mateusz Klich (CM) – 5/10
Patrick Bamford (ST) – 8/10 – How Leeds have missed their main man.
Alvaro Fernandez (GK) – 7/10 – Unquestionably played a huge role in the flow of the match with a highlight-reel save that kept Leeds’ lead to one.
Charlie Goode (CB) – 6/10 – Made a crucial (and painful) defensive block to preserve Brentford’s lead in the final ten minutes.
Pontus Jansson (CB) – 5/10 – Lost his former teammate in a penalty area where mustard shirts heavily outnumbered their mayonnaise counterparts.
Ethan Pinnock (CB) – 6/10 – Offered a robust barrier between the goal and Raphinha in a competitive battle.
Mads Roerslev (RWB) – 5/10 – Gave Raphinha far too much time to deliver the first cross in the build up to Leeds’ opener, let alone the space he afforded the Brazilian when he lined up his assist.
Shandon Baptiste (CM) – 8/10 – A presence at both ends of the pitch, Brentford’s devastatingly dynamic midfielder was unlucky to be the first Bee substituted.
Christian Norgaard (CM) – 5/10 – Struggled to exert much of an influence on proceedings from the base of midfield.
Vitaly Janelt (CM) – 4/10 – Largely bypassed in a game rife with decisive transitions.
Rico Henry (LWB) – 6/10 – Eager as ever to get forward for a side that usually attacks with six players – as Bielsa outlined pre-game – Henry had plenty to deal with in both halves.
Sergi Canos (ST) – 8/10 – Unshackled from his defensive duties at wingback, Canos caused havoc buzzing from one flank to the other.
Bryan Mbeumo (ST) – 7/10 – Struggled to hold onto high balls tossed his way, but showed all his intricate strengths with a delicate assist for Canos.
Frank Onyeka (CM) – 6/10
Yoane Wissa (ST) – N/A
Mathias Jensen (CM) – N/A