After the disastrous game against Villa on Thursday, many Leeds fans were looking at this game with trepidation. My message earlier today was, could the players fight for 90 minutes? Well, this game had more drama than most with one fan saying at the end, “I’m recovering from a heart attack five weeks ago and this hasn’t done the ticker any good!” That said, getting a late winner and Elland Road exploding is a fantastic feeling to have.
It was good to meet up with our fans from Malta and thank you for the scarf plus the support in buying four of my books, Denmark, Norway and Ireland today and I’m so glad that you all experienced the win as well as the atmosphere today. On song, no one beats us as far as I’m concerned and although at times there was a nervous silence, the fans got behind the team due to their constant fighting as I had asked for.
Team: Meslier, Ayling, Struijk, Llorente, Dallas, Klich, Forshaw, Bamford (starting his first game since being injured), James, Raphinha and Rodrigo.
Subs: Harrison for Bamford (45), Koch for Rodrigo (60) and Gelhardt for Klich (90+2).
Subs not used: Klaesson, Greenwood, Shackleton, Bate, Summerville, Cresswell.
Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals from Rodrigo (14), Gelhardt (90+4).
Attendance: 36,321, approx 1,446 Norwich fans.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Booked: Ayling, Harrison, James.
We needed three points without a doubt to give us some respite and the players some self-belief so today was a key game, with Norwich below us and rooted to the bottom of the table. Norwich players set their plan out very early with players falling to the ground at the slightest touch. This contributed to them slowing the game down but luckily for us, we got the last laugh. We had a penalty decision turned down and also Norwich, but the claim by their player was ridiculous. Battling from the team showed when a superb shot from Rodrigo hit the back of the net in front of the south stand as Elland Road erupted. It was only at that point that I realised it was our fans in the bottom half of the away stand when they celebrated our goal. As the Norwich keeper kept protesting as well as some of their players, I still had no idea why as we’d won the ball fair and square from what I saw. The one thing our team were doing was fighting for the ball which is the one thing that has been missing for the last few games. That in itself helped to create the chances we had and spurred the crowd to get behind the team. Bamford was spurring the team on as he chased after everything and his pass to Raphinha saw the latter’s shot cannon off the crossbar. We came close again but couldn’t get the ball into the net. We didn’t have it all our own way though as Norwich did look dangerous at times but we more than held our own to go into the break with a one goal lead. Although the first 38 minutes had seemed to drag, the rest of the half passed quickly.
It wasn’t a surprise to see that Bamford was brought off at half time because he’d been out injured for so long, but he had played well. With Harrison brought on to replace him, Leeds kept up the pressure and we thought we had scored a second goal only for it to be ruled out for offside. James stuck the ball into the net after Raphinha’s shot from a great pass from Rodrigo was parried by their keeper. With Rodrigo replaced by Koch, Klich battled to win the ball and sent a great pass to James on the wing. His speed meant he got the better of their defender but saw his shot saved by their keeper. It seemed after the substitution that it took a bit of time to get back into the game as Norwich had a shot blocked and hit the crossbar. With one of the next attacks, the Elland Road fans groaned as the referee pointed to the spot to give Norwich a penalty. After a long look at the decision by VAR, the referee went to look at the TV screen as Norwich players kicked off. He had to come back and started booking players before going back to the screen. When he came back onto the pitch he did the tv screen gesture and my immediate fears were that he’d allowed the penalty, but only realised as the fans went wild, that I hadn’t seen the gesture for no. That was a let up for us thank goodness. We came close to taking a further lead after Harrison was fouled outside the box. From the resulting free kick, Raphinha’s shot cannoned against the crossbar and away. As six minutes of added time was shown on the screen, any thoughts of seeing the game out were dashed as Norwich equalised and stunned the Leeds fans into silence which saw the Norwich fans singing, ‘you’re not singing anymore’. Gelhardt then replaced Klich as Leeds looked to get a winner. Some fantastic play saw Gelhardt flick the ball onto Raphinha, who got around their defender. He sped to the by-line, got around their keeper and sent the ball into the middle for Gelhardt to stick the ball into the net amid eruptions around Elland Road as the Leeds fans retaliated with the same song Norwich fans had sung at us. The move itself deserved that goal and was well worthy of a winning goal. Luckily Meslier was on hand to make a fantastic save, stopping Norwich equalising at the death. As the final whistle blew to jubilant celebrations around the ground, Meslier received treatment from the trainers.
What a different performance to the one on Thursday night as the game ended with an important win and three points for us. It was lovely seeing the happy, smiling faces as well as listening to the impact the game had had on many fans. Luckily by taking photos, it stops me getting worked up into a frenzy anymore as I remain a lot calmer! With our next game at Wolves on Friday, this win has given us a good psychological impact going forward so let’s hope we can build on this one. See you there, LUFC – Marching on Together!