Leeds poor record in the Capital continued on a frustrating night at Loftus Road. You have to go back to December 2017 for the last time Leeds tasted victory in London, incidentally in the same fixture. With just the one win in their last 13 visits to the city, it certainly hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for United.
Marcelo Bielsa named an unchanged line up from Saturdays 2-1 win against Bolton, with a welcome return to the bench for Gaetano Berardi as the Swiss full back steps up his recovery from injury. QPR went into the game on a run of seven straight defeats in the Championship and playing their seventh game in twenty-one days.
It was Rangers though, who started the brighter in the opening ten minutes. A mixture of aerial bombardment and some neat play involving the creative Luke Freeman served as an early warning sign that the home side weren’t about to roll over. There were legitimate shouts for a penalty for Leeds with Leistner’s raised hand denying Bamford’s effort from outside the box, but referee Andy Davies waved away the protests.
United grew into the half and their best chance came when the lively Freeman was dispossessed in the middle of the park. With the ball finding its way to Hernandez on the right, the Spaniard delivered an inviting cross which only just eluded the outstretched Bamford, who was bearing down on an empty net. The game was being played at a frantic pace, with Leeds beginning to get on top. United, enjoying the lion’s share of possession which we have come to expect from Bielsa’s side, were struggling to turn this into creating any real clear-cut chances as the clocked ticked on. With just over five minutes to go until the break, Leeds were forced down to ten men. Liam Cooper left the field with the medical staff to tend to a cut sustained just above the eye and rather than pushing for the opening goal that their first half display had merited, United were made to sit back and consolidate for the remaining few minutes.
The importance of a win tonight was heightened pre-match by the upcoming visit of fellow promotion rivals West Brom to Elland Road on Friday night. Defeat would only increase the pressure on an already important game for Bielsa’s men. With a half time stalemate, you felt that it would take a piece of magic or a mistake for either side to unlock the door.
The second half had barely begun when Tyler Roberts gave the ball away cheaply inside his own half. In an almost identical move to Bamford’s earlier chance, Massimo Luongo evaded pressure down the QPR right hand side with the difference being that his cross found the unmarked Freeman who tapped into an empty net.
The goal for the home side appeared to spur Leeds into life with the visitors forcing a series of corners in quick succession. Poor deliveries into the box, which became epidemic throughout, meant that United failed to capitalise. Even the introduction of set-piece specialist Barry Douglas on 65 minutes couldn’t alter United’s fortunes. The home side, now sitting back and waiting for a counter attacking opportunity created a couple of chances themselves with Freeman and Luongo going close. Despite the second half following the same trend as the first, with Leeds dominating the ball, chances were few and far between until Douglas found himself unmarked on the edge of the Rangers box and with time and space a plenty, the full back blazed over the bar. As good a chance as Leeds had managed to create had gone begging.
Into the final ten minutes the best move of the game involving some neat interplay between Dallas, Klich, Hernandez and Bamford, ended with Bamford turning the ball into the hands of QPR’s keeper Lumley. The long-awaited sight of the illusive Izzy Brown finally ended when the on-loan Chelsea midfielder replaced Alioski. The ten-minute cameo won’t have told us much other than that Bielsa finally deems him ready to play some part in the run in. That will be seen by many as a rare positive on an otherwise frustrating evening. Hernandez had one final chance to get his side back in the game when Roberts was brought down just outside the penalty area. Once again, his ball into the box was wasteful.
Keep faith and work hard 💛💙 come on @LUFC ! proud of the boys and all fans who made it to Loftus road, as always phenomenal!— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) 26 February 2019
Failure to regain top spot means United sit 3rd in the table. The remaining twelve games of the season will become more significant as the weeks pass, yet the pressure is now on Norwich and Sheffield United. Can they maintain their place in the automatic promotion places? The Canaries face a tricky trip to the New Den on Saturday against Millwall and the Blades face an in-form Sheffield Wednesday side in the Steel City Derby. One thing is for certain, there will be many more twists and turns to come and we hope that Leeds can bounce back against the Baggies under the lights at Elland Road on Friday night.
Author: Gavin Horne