Crysencio Summerville equaliser against Cardiff was important for Leeds United's confidence and spirit says boss Daniel Farke
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The Whites looked set to start the season with a defeat when two down at half-time, but kept going and were rewarded by an injury-time equaliser from man of the match Crysencio Summerville to open up with a 2-2 draw.
A point was the least United deserved after playing some smart football with Summervile and a rejuvenated Willy Gnonto at the heart of their best attacks.
With more than 70 per cent possession and 25 shots to five in the Whites' favour it felt like the Bielsa era was back, but with that came some soft defending that allowed the visitors to score with their only two efforts on target.
United boss Daniel Farke was relieved to pick up a point with the dramatic late leveller, but was encouraged with his side's play and thought they were robbed of all three points.
He said: “When you judge this game in an obvious way and from statistics, it's a scandal that we didn't win.
“Especially second half just one team was chasing the game and playing, it looks a bit like a poor play at times, but yeah, we certainly we missed too many good situations.
“Cardiff were also unbelievably effective and defended more or less their six-yard box pretty well and for that you also have to give credit to them that they're defending was really good.
“We are disappointed that we didn't win this game, but I just have praise and compliments for my lads because after such a game then to equalise in the 95th minute after we had to deal with so many hits in the neck and then missed so many opportunities, so many things were against us.
“To show this attitude you don't know when you're beaten and you keep going until the end and if you can't win a game then you give your life in order to make sure that you don't lose it and to equalise.
“I think it was a pretty important point not just for the table, but also for the confidence, for the spirit, for the unity, for the mentality and I'm pretty pleased that we're able to equalise in the last minute.”
Leeds were a little slow into their stride, but established control with new midfield combination Ethan Ampadu and 17-year-old Archie Gray getting an early hold of the game.
The first chance came on 15 minutes when Summerville's through ball set Gnonto free, but the Italian international saw his shot blocked and two follow-up efforts by Gray were also halted by defenders.
A minute later Luke Ayling's header on set Gnonto free again and this time he hammered a volley just wide.
Gnonto was provider for Summerville next, but his teammate shot wide from a narrow angle.
It was completely against the run of play when Cardiff took the lead as Callum O'Dowda found oceans of space down the left and pulled the ball back into the box where Josh Bowler was also left unmarked. His initial shot was blocked, but his follow-up found the back of the net to stun an up to then noisy home crowd.
Dan James shot over from the edge of the box as Leeds looked to respond and Summerville brought the first save out of visiting keeper Jak Alnwick with a well struck shot from the edge of the area.
But the home team was hit by another sucker punch on 39 minutes when Bowler got round Leo Hjelde and found Aaron Ramsey in the box. Again the initial shot was blocked, but fell invitingly for Ike Ugbo to have an easy task to score from close range.
United still finished the half strongly as Pascal Struijk's header was saved then they had big shouts for a penalty denied after Luis Sinisterra and Summerville went down in the area on the same attack.
A strong start to the second half did see the Whites grab a lifeline when Summerville's corner was powerfully headed home by skipper Liam Cooper.
The goal came at a cost as Cooper was stretchered off with an ankle injury and he looks set to now miss several matches, leaving the team with only two regular first team centre-backs.
Undeterred, Leeds followed up with wave after wave of attacks, but their lack of a regular centre-forward showed as they struggled to put the ball in the net.
Gnonto went on a superb run that ended with his shot deflecting onto the top of the net, Ayling volleyed over from a corner and James' low shot was tipped wide by Alnwick.
Cardiff did briefly threaten as Ugbo raced in behind the home defence only to shoot over.
But the Welsh side were mostly content to sit back and rode their luck when James put the ball in the net only for Ayling to be offside in the build-up.
The returning Sam Byram, on to play left-back after replacing Hjelde at the break, shot over from a corner then Sinisterra was played in by Summerville only to be denied a shot by a great last ditch tackle.
Summerville went on a great run into the box, but saw his low shot deflected wide.
Just when it looked like Leeds would be out of luck their fortune changed as Sinisterra's 25-yard shot was deflected straight into the path of Summerville who quickly turned to shoot past Alnwick for a 95th minute equaliser.
(Cooper 49, Summerville 90+5)
Cardiff City 2
(Bowler 23, Ugbo 39)
Sunday, August 6, 2023
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Struijk, Cooper (Cresswell 53), Hjelde (Byram 45); Ampadu, Gray (Perkins 90+2); Summerville, Sinisterra, James (Poveda 83); Gnonto (Gelhardt 83).
Cardiff: Alnwick; NG (Romeo 77), McGuinness, Goutas, O'Dowda; Wintle, Ralls (Adams 30); Bowler, Ramsey (Rinomhota 77), Grant (Meite 65); Ugbo (Etete 77).
Referee: Josh Smith