Jesse Marsch praises Leeds United fans' passion and support despite defeat to Manchester City

Head coach Jesse Marsch was blown away by the support from the stands as Leeds United fans rose to the occasion at Elland Road despite seeing their side suffer yet another big defeat to Manchester City.

By Tony Harber
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 8:00 am

Although City have beaten the Whites 11-0 on aggregate in their two meetings this season to show the gulf in ability between the teams the Leeds supporters were top class even if the players were not.

They never stopped trying to encourage the players and were still singing at the end just after seeing Fernandinho score the last of City's goals with the last action of the game.

The result did flatter the title challengers, but they never really had to get out of second gear to achieve their vital win and the result leaves the Whites ever more nervous about a return to the Championship after they dropped down a place to fourth from bottom with rivals Burnley winning.

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Joe Gelhardt on the ball for Leeds United in their 4-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Yet the fans were unwavering in their support and Marsch said: "The best part was the fans' response.

"A 4-0 home loss and there was so much passion and love for the team from the fans.

"I have never seen a place like this and it's a very unique relationship the club has with its fanbase and the city.

"I wasn't being facetious when I said it was the best team in the world against the best club in the world. This club is very unique. That isn't pandering to our fans, maybe they think that, I'm just calling it like I see it."

On what happened in the game Marsch was pleased with aspects of his side's display.

He explained: "If we feel we can play like that against City, we can play like that against anybody.

"On the scoresheet it's a loss, but it's a win in many ways. At 4-0, it's a crazy thing to say but I truly believe that.

"So much has changed in the last two months. I feel like we've been ahead of schedule the whole time. I'm only taking positives from this. This was almost a write off game.

"Manchester City is the best team in the world, we would have surprised everyone to get any points out of it. The performance was more important to me. We'll take it with us."

Marsch added: "There was a lack of composure in the final third and leading to the final third too.

"We are still not able to quite slow the game down in key moments and have quality to create big chances and goals. Another day, we manage it better.

"But if you take out those two (set piece) goals, the first 70 minutes were pretty good.

"City are a team who can move the ball and hurt you, but we had control in many parts of the match. I'm proud. I challenged them to play with confidence and belief, to go after City and make it hard for them - they did all of that.

"Before the match I said we want to look each other in the eye and say 'that's our best'. I think we can comfortably do that.

"We wanted something to take with us, to continue to grow from the experience and to be ready for the next four massive challenges - I think we can do that.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy. I came from vacation into a relegation battle and I knew it would go to wire and we are up for it.

"The confidence I have in our group, their workrate and desire, gives me optimism and confidence. It won't be easy but we'll keep pushing."

Leeds certainly denied City space to play their usual quality football at times and could have stunned them in the second minute when Ruben Dias's slip allowed Rodrigo to race clear from halfway, but the Spaniard - playing up front - was unable to take advantage as he failed to trouble the visitors' goal.

City offered their first threat when Nathan Ake headed wife from a free-kick and the warning was not heeded as they opened the scoring from another set piece.

It was arguable that they should have been awarded a free-kick by referee Paul Tierney as Raheem Sterling bumped into Stuart Dallas rather then the United player fouling. But Phil Foden's cross was not well defended as Rodri sent a glancing header into the net.

The response was instantly good with Raphinha sending in a fantastic cross as the hosts threatened to equalise, but Robin Koch could not get his head onto the ball in a challenge with Aymeric Laporte and an lengthy delay followed as both players received treatment for head knocks.

The game went through a stop-start affair after that and was not the free flowing contest you expect in a Man City game.

For all their efforts Leeds did not look like scoring often, although they briefly threatened when the ball fell nicely for Junior Firpo in the box, but he fired over.

Gabriel Jesus saw his shot comfortably saved by Illan Meslier at the other end while Sterling had a shot blocked and that was it for goalmouth action in the disappointing first half.

There was bigger disappointment for the Whites as they lost Dallas to a nasty knee injury and had already lost skipper Liam Cooper in the warm-up.

Raphinha was a surprise choice to go to right wing-back with Jack Harrison at left wing-back later in the game and lots of shuffling of positions by Marsch.

The second half was more open and it was to City's advantage as a great run by Sterling ended with his shot well blocked by Koch and they doubled their lead from a corner.

United's defending from set pieces had been much better under Marsch, but they were unable to prevent Dias heading Foden's cross down and defenders were like statues as Ake was able to score from close range.

Ilkay Gundogan came close to adding to the visitors' lead with a shot just wide from just outside the box.

Leeds did manage their first serious attempt of the half in the 70th minute when Raphinha combined well with Dan James and raced into the box only to see his shot deflected over.

But if they thought they were getting back in the game they were to be disappointed as Foden had space to pick an easy through ball for Jesus, who did the rest after narrowly avoiding being offside to stroke the ball past Meslier.

Joao Cancelo was next to be through, but his shot was straight at Meslier.

Leeds did keep going, however, as their fans did and were unlucky not to score in the closing stages.

First, James was put through by Joe Gelhardt and rounded keeper Ederson only to see his shot cleared off the line by Cancelo.

Then Gelhardt slid in to meet Mateusz Klich's low cross, but his shot was brilliantly saved by Ederson.

City had the final word, however, when Struijk's weak clearance saw the ball fall to Fernandinho who fired home a low shot from the edge of the box.

Manchester City 4 (Rodri 13, Ake 54, Jesus 78, Fernandinho 90+3)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,771

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling , Koch, Struijk; Dallas (James 45+7), Phillips, Klich, Firpo (Gelhardt 62), Raphinha, Harrison; Rodrigo (Greenwood 83).

City: Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Ake (Zinchenko 59); Rodri (Fernandinho 83), Gundogan; Sterling, Foden (Sila 79), Grealish; Jesus.

Referee: Paul Tierney