Crystal Palace 2 Leeds United 1 – room for improvement. Leeds badly missed the predatory presence of the suspended Sinisterra today. While Bamford made his first start he is still rusty in front of goal. He relies on crosses up to him but the fast pace of the game meant he rarely connected with the ball today.
The two teams have met twice this year, once last season in the Premier League and once in a summer friendly in Australia.
Whilst there is clear game plan for Leeds from the beginning with high pressing, quick direct passing and set piece free kicks it is not yet working. There are two key areas Marsch needs to work on.
Firstly, is the lack of shots on goal. This was again evident today. Even with Bamford starting the quality of the final ball was persistently lacking. The number of shots on and off target under Bielsa was always impressive so it can be done.
Secondly, the lack of consistency in the performance. Leeds were the better side until the first goal today. After that Palace gradually took control of the ball and used their pace down the wings to score. Twenty minutes is not good enough. Under Bielsa Leeds battled for the whole of the match and scored many goals in extra time. That focus today seemed to be lost as if the players don’t know how to play the Marsch way for a full 90 minutes.
Leeds started positively with a nervous early moment for Palace as their keeper is chased down with the ball but too many touches by Leeds cost them a shot. Leeds high press, and swarm around the Palace players. This worked well as they win the ball and force Palace to look for space behind the Leeds back four to get the ball to Zaha.
Early pressure earned Leeds the first goal of the match. Aaronson went on a crazy run, fouled twice but dribbled his way through Palace defenders into the box, beats the keeper but hit the bar. Struijk is perfectly positioned to shoot into the goal nutmegging a Palace defender on the way.
Another crazy moment on 12 minutes when Harrison chased the Palace keeper and claims the ball but Leeds unable to control the ball that Harrison floated in to the box.
But a Palace set piece free kick saw the match change. Edouard got ahead of Kristensen to head the ball in. Until then Leeds had dominated the match. Leeds should have gone ahead again but Bamford in one on one with the keeper tamely poked it into the keeper’s hands.
A dire second half
So we started the second half with Sky Sports commentators blatantly supporting Palace to win: “Leeds will run out of gas and Palace will score.”
Palace grew in the second half to find ways in with Meslier tested. Zaha found more space from Krestensn. Leeds lost their focus and never really got back to how they played at the start – the lack of shots on goals is a worry. Summerville, and Klich didn’t impact the game when they came on as subs. Gelhardt should have replaced Bamford much earlier than 82 minutes – the game was almost lost by then, apart from one final foray into the box. Palace were there to be beaten but the players lacked the cutting edge.
Harrison and Aaronson combined well on free kicks (with various hand signals (patting of the head) but ultimately neither Bamford nor Rodrigo got their head on the ball. Kretensen and Struijk started strongly in defence but were gradually outpaced by Zaha.
Despite early decisions going well by allowing play to continue when there is an advantage the referee managed to get it completely wrong when a Palace player fell over his own feet when being chased by Gelhardt. The timewasting by Palace and calls for fouls worked their wonder on the referee.
Man of the match: Struijk