This was a must win game for Leeds United if they wanted to stay up and the desire to survive lasted 16 minutes. Leeds United could not find the desire to win one point – capital punishment dished out in the form of inevitable relegation.
With Firpo rightly suspended Struijk was slotted into the unnatural position of midfield. Forshaw earned a starting place. An early injury to Bamford saw replace by Gnonto in the first half. The 4-3-3 format was attacking if optimistic.
The collapse in the second half, whilst not on the scale of Gracia’s reign, was typified by the late third West Ham goal where four Leeds players had West Ham pinned in a Leeds United corner yet one player managed to break out and go past two Leeds defenders to create the goal. The lack of self belief had sucked the strength out of their play.
Having created the first goal Leeds could not replicate the performance for the next 75 minutes. There was no more counter attacking. Forward play was patient but shots on goal evaporated. Substitutions had no impact. The energy needed to grab the equaliser was not there – this was a team without ideas and resigned to relegation.
What has happened to Gnonto? When he burst into the team at the beginning of the season he was dribbling with pace and creating goal scoring opportunities; today he did little more than pass sideways and lose possession. A faded and jaded starlet.
Harrison started brightly but rarely showed the cutting edge from the start of the season. Rodrigo again led from the front but faded in the second half and earned a yellow card for a frustrated foul. His first half goal came from a long McKennie throw that landed in his lap for a clean volley into the net. After that he lacked the service to score again.
West Ham occasionally allowed Leeds possession and then, when Leeds were all forward, charged forwards in numbers. Leeds had to find a way to score and risk leaving the back door open. The rest of the time West Ham patiently held the ball on the half way line and held possession for long periods.
Big Sam towards the end of the match looked a forlorn figure. Nothing appeared to be going to plan. Forward crosses were not finding their man. No one was prepared to shoot, instead the players crossed into the box and hope. Robles’ goal kicks were preferred to playing out from the back and West Ham kept possession.
Apart from the goal the only other smile Big Sam made was when he found a fiver and the fourth referee told him to keep it. It was a dark day for Leeds fans – even a coach load of fans dressed up as nuns could not sum up a miracle.
In the second half, Leeds had a rare opportunity to equalise to 2-2, with three quick fire opportunities when Rodrigo pickpocketed a defender but did not shoot himself and instead passed to Gnonto who failed to properly connect and then Harrison fluffed his shot. It was that kind of afternoon.
Man of the Match: Rodrigo