Arsenal v Leeds United 8th May 2022
I was like a kid in a sweet shop on Friday, going to the Hilton Hotel to see the Leeds United 72 legends. Having been at Wembley in 1972 to see the best team ever win the FA Cup in the centenary year of the competition was a dream come true and the feelings were out of this world. Seeing Billy lift the FA Cup from Her Majesty the Queen are memories that have stayed with me forever and have made me the Leeds fan I still am today. The day was perfect except for Mick Janes getting injured in the final minutes of the game. The community singing led by Tommy Steele wearing white and the whole stadium singing Abide with Me, and the National Anthem were spine tingling and awe-inspiring moments to cherish. I love listening to all the stories from those players and it was great to chat to them again.
I was up at 3.30am to travel to the game so at least the early start meant there were no issues at the roadworks on the M62. We had a good run down and were in the usual stop off at the Mossy Well before getting to the ground in good time. The sun was shining and there was a good buzz amongst the Leeds fans as I took many photos before the game as I knew things could change very easily. There were Stuart Dallas t-shirts on a number of seats in the stand but apparently there weren’t enough for every seat which was a shame. As I was stood outside the ground with Nikki we got talking to a young policeman and he said they’d had advance intelligence about a group of Leeds fans who were being escorted into the game from Kings Cross, hence the reason they were there.
Team: Meslier, Ayling, Phillips, Raphinha, Koch, Gelhardt, James, Harrison, Klich, Llorente and Firpo.
Subs: Struijk for Gelhardt (29), Bate for Klich (45), Rodrigo for Raphinha (60).
Subs not used: Klaesson, Greenwood, Cresswell, Shackleton, Hjelde, Gray.
Leeds lost the game 2-1 with Llorente scoring the Leeds goal (66). The defeat meant Leeds slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season with three games left.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Booked: Raphinha, Klich. Sent off: Ayling.
Attendance: 60,108 with 3,000 Leeds fans.
I’d been bursting into song prior to kick off with “who put the ball in the Arsenal net, Allan, Allan Clarke.” We really needed a Sniffer Clarke in our team today. I’ve met plenty of Leeds fans who thought we could still get something from the games left, whereas I couldn’t call it. We soon found out how things would go because within five minutes we were a goal down after a disastrous pass back to Meslier from Ayling saw him take a touch, only to be pounced on by Nketiah of all people (it was always going to happen, but I still wouldn’t want him at Leeds due to the fact that he downed tools and wanted away when he came to us on loan). Before we knew it, he had scored a second one for them as Leeds looked down and out. That was just what we didn’t need but we were up against it, big style. Things went from bad to worse when Ayling went in hard on a tackle and immediately received a yellow card. Before you had time to blink, VAR was shown to be looking at the tackle and as soon as the referee went to look at the screen at the pitch side, you knew Ayling was walking with Leeds now down to 10 men as well as losing 2-0. Raphinha went berserk and chased the referee protesting and eventually found himself with a yellow card. It looked at one point as if he was trying to get himself sent off too. It never rains but it pours for us as we always make things 100% harder than they need to be. With that Joffy was taken off and replaced by Struijk which brought boos from the crowd. He finally got his chance to start the game and even that transpired against him. Meslier made a great save, and the ball was hooked off the line and away by Llorente as we continued to live dangerously.
As I went down under the stand at half time the Leeds fans were still in jovial mood despite everything. Everyone was having a laugh and singing then out of the blue, the police came and waded into the fans as beer was thrown at them. I’d not heard anything untoward but on my return to the stand, I was told there had been a little skirmish but once the police arrived, things escalated.
The second half belonged to the Leeds fans as we started to create an atmosphere. The football in a library song was on repetition before the Arsenal fans stood up and you heard them for once. When Llorente at the far post hit the ball into the net to pull a goal back, there was always a chance we could get something from the game. With our last chance of the game Rodrigo’s header didn’t have enough power on it to get past the keeper. The second half spirit from the Leeds team meant that it didn’t feel like we had only 10 men and probably played better than when we had 11 players on the pitch.
On our way back to the coach, an Arsenal fan asked me who Dallas was and then said that our fans had been brilliant. He wished us luck and other fans said we needed to beat Chelsea too. We have two home games with the rearranged Chelsea game first before Brighton at home. There are still nine points to play for and things can still change despite us now taking that third relegation place. With Burnley on the same number of points but with a better goal difference, Everton have a game in hand as well as a point more. Our fate is still in our hands if we can get some more points even if the outlook looks bleak now. Live in hope but fear the worst. See you there LUFC – Marching on Together!