Head coach Marcelo Bielsa admits Leeds United will almost certainly have to go through the play-off route if they are to earn promotion this season after seeing his team’s meek surrender at Brentford.
After the huge disappointment of failing to beat a 10-man Wigan Athletic team in their first Easter game the Leeds players could not pick themselves up as they lost 2-0 to mid-table opponents with little but pride to play for.
The game possibly hinged on United not being given a stonewall penalty when Patrick Bamford was tripped up in the area, but having failed with their last two spot kicks there was no guarantee this would have changed the result.
Once again it was the sane failings that have dogged the team since Christmas that surfaced as they had enough possession and opportunities to win, but did not take advantage.
Bielsa was quick to point this out after the game, during which he was the most angry he has been in his time at Leeds.
He said: “In the moments when we dominated the opponent we couldn’t score.
“We could have made a difference in the beginning of the game and in the second part of the first half we were less present and they scored the goal.
“In the second half we were dominating the game when they scored the second goal.
“In a nutshell when we dominated we couldn’t score, when they dominated they could score.
“We had almost twice as much possession as them and chances to score.
“I agree it looks like we will be in the play-offs. I’m very sad. We had the hope to finish first or second, but with the loss of today it’s going to be very difficult.”
Bielsa refused to have a go at referee Keith Stroud for not giving United a penalty when it was 0-0.
He added: “I never make comments on the decision that the referee makes. Their job is very difficult and they have the right to make mistakes.
“I never think of justifying losses by linking it to the referee.”
Leeds seemed comfortable initially as they settled into their usual way of playing, but were unable to put the ball in the net again and were rocked near the end of the first half when Neal Maupay raced on to a through ball to score the opening goal and defended sloppily again after the break as Sergi Canos netted the killer second goal.
Leeds squandered their first chance in only the second minute when Luke Ayling cut in from the right and found Patrick Bamford in the area, but the misfiring striker could only shoot wide.
Three minutes later Tyler Roberts raced clean through, but took a heavy touch that allowed home keeper Luke Daniels to come out to claim the ball and did not even get a shot away.
The pattern was set, although Brentford had a chance as Canos fired over after a hole was suddenly found in the Leeds defence.
The home team were lucky not to give a penalty away when referee Stroud waved away huge claims for a penalty when Bamford was sent tumbling in the area by Julian Jeanvier. The official had a clear view of the incident so why he did not point to the spot only he can say.
Leeds continued to do more of the attacking and the recalled Adam Forshaw’s deflected effort was inches wide.
At the other end, Rico Henry’s shot from inside the area was deflected narrowly over.
The hosts were beginning to look more of a threat with Canos only denied by a fine save from Kiko Casilla before Maupay broke the deadlock after Pontus Jansson was initially caught napping and his fellow defenders could not cover for him as the striker clinically finished past Casilla.
The initial reaction was good as United should have equalised within a minute, but after being played in down the right Roberts hit a tame shot wide to show perhaps why he has not scored in the senior team since October.
Leeds began the second half brightly with Stuart Dallas seeing his shot turned over by the keeper and Pablo Hernandez and Bamford both shooting over. Bamford then narrowly failed to connect with a cutback from Roberts.
But Brentford showed them how to finish when Canos got ahead of Dallas in the area to chip the ball over Casilla.
Maupay’s overhead kick flew narrowly over soon after and Leeds looked shellshocked at this point.
They tried to drag themselves back into it, but although Mateusz Klich saw an effort saved, they were unable to summon up the energy to put in the big finish they needed to.
This was a humbling defeat that will take some getting over and with rivals Sheffield United winning Leeds now need a footballing miracle to achieve their automatic promotion aim.
(Maupay 45, Canos 62)
Leeds United 0
Monday, April 22, 2019
Brentford: Daniels, Konsa, Jeanvier, Sorensen, Odubajo, Sawyers, Mokotjo, Henry, Canos (Marcondes 83), Watkins (Dasilva 87), Maupay.
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson (Clarke 64), Cooper, Alioski (Dallas 12), Forshaw, Hernandez, Klich, Roberts, Harrison, Bamford (Roofe 58).
Referee: Keith Stroud