Leeds United 3-4 Millwall Six Things: Elliott the game-changer

Tom Elliott – gettyimages.co.uk

Both Leeds United and Millwall had a knack of responding well to adversity on Saturday afternoon, but struggling to manage proceedings when they had the upper-hand. The result was an enthralling game that saw a red card, a dubiously disallowed goal from Jed Wallace and seven that stood, including a dramatic late winner from the same man. Here’s six things from a frenetic afternoon at Elland Road.

Millwall’s impressive first half

The match might have assumed a more tranquil nature had Leeds’ Pierre-Michel Lasogga taken at least one of his two early clear-cut chances, but Leeds had only themselves to blame for the half-time deficit. Their playing out from the back was too sloppy and right-back Gaetano Berardi fell asleep at the back-post for countless Millwall crosses. His sluggishness went initially unpunished as Aiden O’Brien missed two presentable openings, but not a third: the Irishman nodded home on 18 minutes from Steve Morison’s cross. Pantomime villain Morison always appears quicker than one might expect a player of his experience and height to be and he has a decent delivery on him too – the veteran crossed again to the back-post, this time for partner Lee Gregory to slide home.

Cooper’s ill-judged challenge

Sandwiched between those two goals was the sending off for Leeds’ Liam Cooper. The centre-back put in an awful, studs-up challenge on George Saville and even had the audacity to half-argue when given the red card. While we can respect that the competitive nature of the game makes players make challenges they later come to regret, his tackle looked potentially very serious. The most remarkable part though was that there was no stretcher to speak of and the midfielder bravely completed the 90 minutes without looking out of place.

Lovely northern Las

Lasogga had struggled in isolation in the first half, but with more support at the start of the second period, he finally began to assert his on Jake Cooper and Shaun Hutchinson. Kemar Roofe was much improved and his left-wing cross found the target man, who produced a ruthless finish from close-range. New left-back Laurens De Brock also grew more involved in the second period and he produced another cross from the left; this one was spilled by Jordan Archer to give way to a goal-line scramble, from which Roofe finally profited. Pablo Hernandez blew hot and cold on the day but he was an asset when Leeds had the ball in the final third, as proved in his deceptive lay-off for the third goal, when Lasogga drove the ball home from outside the box on 64 minutes.

The game changers

At that point, it looked like the momentum provided by a boisterous and passionate home crowd would be enough to see Leeds’ 10-men over the line. Instead, the game changed on two substitutions: firstly, Lasogga had a fitness issue and was taken off with Hernandez moving up top and asked to control aimless high balls, which clearly wasn’t his game. To give credit to Neil Harris, his three substitutes all had a huge impact. Full-backs Shane Ferguson and Mahlon Romeo give Millwall more width and thrust than James Meredith and Conor McLaughlin respectively, allowing the likes of Wallace to drift inside and create.

Millwall break the hoodoo

Harris’ other substitute, Tom Elliott, scored the equalizer: he escaped the attentions of Matthew Pennington to drive low beyond Felix Wiedwald, following a fine knock-down from auxiliary target man Cooper. Just as the nerves crept into Elland Road, Wallace then hit a firm shot from outside the box, which was deflected off Pontus Jansson and into the net. That late strike meant Millwall won an away game for the first time since May 2017 – a 3-2 play-off semi-final second leg victory at Scunthorpe. This one offered the drama to match.

Leeds underwhelm

Had the Whites managed to hang on to victory, the talk would have been of the spirit they showed to complete a potentially season-changing turnaround. Instead, while there was some post-match applause for the 10-men from the more philosophical fans, it was hard not to leave the ground somewhat underwhelmed. Baring a 20-minute spell of dominance and clinical finishing from Lasogga and Roofe, Leeds had struggled to contain a team they were expected to beat. This was a great game from a neutral perspective, yet it arguably highlighted why these teams are short of the top six: both had goals in them when they needed them, but both also suffered from altitude sickness once the game edged their way. Thankfully for Millwall, Wallace’s winner came late enough to ensure a memorable triumph on the road.