Leeds 2-3 Fulham: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Bobby Decordova-Reid and Willian strike to pile more pressure on Jesse Marsch
Leeds were booed off by their own fans after a 3-2 home defeat to Fulham dropped them into the Premier League relegation zone and increased the pressure on under-fire manager Jesse Marsch.
In an eventful first half, Rodrigo put Leeds in front on 19 minutes but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s close-range header from a corner equalised matters just six minutes later.
The match remained on a knife edge until late in the second half when Fulham administered the killer blow with two goals in 10 minutes. First, Bobby Decordova-Reid glanced Andreas Pereira’s cross into the far corner, before Harrison Reed set up Willian for a simple tap-in.
Substitutes Joe Gelhardt and Crysencio Summerville combined for the latter to score in stoppage time to give Leeds some late hope, but the full-time whistle arrived to signal widespread discontent from the home fans around Elland Road.
Despite the criticism, Marsch has vowed to carry on.
“I understand their frustration we’re all in that boat,” said Marsch. “I’m responsible for making this team better. I’m going to work tirelessly to try to help them [the players] gain their confidence.
“I’m here for the long term. I love this club, I’m investing everything I have to try to make us better.”
Leeds have now gone eight league matches without a win and drop to 18th, while newly-promoted Fulham rise to seventh – above Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool – after an impressive start to the season under Marco Silva.
How Fulham turned the tide
The tempo of this game showed no signs of a slow affair from the off, with Leeds doing the early running but Fulham enjoying joy on the break.
It was the visitors who had the first major chance of the match, with Antonee Robinson’s cross flicked on by Mitrovic to the advancing Reed on the right.
The Fulham midfielder slammed the ball past Illan Meslier and was expecting the net to bulge, only for a superb last-ditch intervention by Marc Roca to deny him from underneath the crossbar.
With Fulham looking to turn the screw, Leeds hit them on a devastating break for the opener. Brenden Aaronson fed Jack Harrison down the right and the Leeds winger skipped away from Robinson with ease.
Tim Ream got across to block Harrison’s effort but the ball scooped up in the air to Rodrigo, who beat Tosin Adarabioyo in the air to nod the hosts in front.
But Fulham would draw themselves back level with a similar style of goal. Pereira’s corner floated into the near post and Mitrovic bustled Luke Ayling out of the way to glance a header in for his ninth of the campaign.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Fulham were inches away from a second and a first-half turnaround. After Leeds failed to capitalise from their own free-kick, Pereira was released for a one-on-one with the entire half to himself.
The midfielder had plenty of time to think of his options, but could only fire into Meslier’s midriff in a major let-off for the hosts.
Just like against Arsenal last weekend, Leeds came out firing in the second half as Aaronson, Rodrigo and Ayling spurned some half-opportunities to regain the lead.
The introduction of Patrick Bamford on the hour mark raised the intensity for the home side, with the striker denied a 100th career league goal by an impressive close-range stop by Bernd Leno.
But as Leeds looked all set to turn the screw, Fulham struck. Pereira’s pinpoint cross from the right fell into the path of Decordova-Reid, who had the simple task of nodding past the rooted Meslier.
Ten minutes later, and following little Leeds resistance, it was three for Fulham. Some excellent work from Reed in the right channel of the penalty area saw him feed Willian, who stretched to prod home at the far post to seal the points.
Leeds fans began to flood out of Elland Road and those that stayed booed and chanted “What is going on?” – and despite Summerville prodding home past Leno following Gelhardt’s deft flick – the outlook is not a good one for Marsch.
Marsch: Defeat painful and unacceptable | Silva: Fulham are grounded
Amidst chants of “What is going on?” and “Sack the board”, Marsch vowed to carry on at Leeds despite the intense pressure on him.
“We always knew the league is incredibly difficult – we never took anything for granted, even staying up last year,” said Marsch. “We’re going to use our mentality and our commitment – even today we pushed until the end – and we’re going to use that character we have in the group and figure out ways to get better.
“I don’t think our fans want to hear a lot of tactical analysis right now. We had a good start to the game and you feel after the goal, we would start to get control of things.
“But we find ways to hurt ourselves and give up goals in ways we don’t think we should be – and we put games in balance. In the second half, at 1-1, you can see that our confidence is at its highest and then we gave the game away.
“Set-piece defending, we take a lot of pride on. It’s two corners and a throw-in and we don’t defend well enough and we’re not ready for those moments. It’s painful and unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, despite Fulham sitting at the lofty heights of seventh place, manager Marco Silva insisted the west Londoners will remain grounded in their fantastic start to the campaign.
“What a comeback, starting at this stadium, losing 1-0,” said the Fulham boss. “The way they did it really impressed me. They showed character and personality to play at this level. Even the way they reacted, equalising and commanding the game.
“I have to be realistic, I’m not crazy. I know the quality that we face every single time. I know what it means to play at Elland Road and these fans can make an extra player for them. We knew it would be tough, but it’s tough for other teams to play against us as well.
“The main thing for me is they can realise every single match that our players can do everything to make them proud and to win a football match.
“The position in the table is nice, but it’s not the main thing. Two weeks before when we lost against Newcastle and at that crazy game at West Ham, we were not in panic. And now we’re not in over the moon. We keep our feet on the ground.”
Analysis: Marsch really up against it
Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz:
Four straight defeats for Leeds and no wins in eight under Jesse Marsch. Fans booing, players out of confidence and goals flying in at the wrong end. How much worse can it get?
Well, take a look at Leeds’ fixture list and it could be quite a lot. Next on their agenda is Liverpool next weekend, then Bournemouth at home the week after. Either side of the World Cup break is Tottenham and Manchester City.
You do struggle to see where the points are coming from, especially given Bournemouth at home will contain a lot of pressure.
In their last four games, Leeds have put in varying levels of performance – but there’s a common denominator. Marsch’s side should have been 3-0 up against Crystal Palace but threw away their lead, Leeds were unfortunate against Arsenal but gifted the Gunners their winner. At Leicester they were abject but literally put goals into their own net, and Leeds were so open that Fulham could have left Elland Road with a hatful of goals.
It seems that no matter what Leeds do now, they can’t help conceding via their own means. Once and Marsch can hide behind individual error. Four straight games? That’s more than coincidence.
A leaky defence was the tale of the tape behind Marcelo Bielsa’s sacking – and his successor looks to be heading down a similar route.
Leeds will be back in Premier League action on Saturday when they travel to Liverpool, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 7.45pm. Fulham are also on Sky Sports on October 29, welcoming Everton to Craven Cottage; kick-off 5.30pm.
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