Javi Gracia vows to work on Leeds United's finishing after missed chances prove costly in FA Cup loss to Fulham
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That is the way it has been going for the Whites this season and the change of coach does not appear to have changed the fortune as despite chance after chance they failed to score and lost their FA Cup fifth round tie 2-0 at Fulham.
It was two wonder goals that gave the hosts their unmerited victory, but the superb strikes from Joao Palhinha and Manor Solomon highlighted the biggest difference between the teams. Strike after strike at the other end was either too close to the the goalkeeper or off target so shooting practice should be high up on Gracia’s list of things to do in training in the next few weeks.
“We were unlucky because we created many chances to score, one hit the post and one goal disallowed – in my opinion very soft,” said Gracia.
“The effort my players did was massive and we deserved something else. But if you do not score and you are not clinical you lose.
"They did not create many chances, but scored two great goals. We created all kinds of chances, but if you don’t take them you know what happens.
"It was another step trying to know. Now our target is to win our next game, improve our position in the Premier League and try to grow.
"Today we played a good game, but without scoring.”
On how to improve the finishing of his team Gracia added: “Work on it. Training. Analyse why. Confidence is important. It's coming from good results. Like a cycle. Work on it is all we can do.”
Gracia made four changes to his starting line-up for the cup tie, bringing in Georginio Rutter up front, Crysencio Summerville on the wing, Marc Roca in midfield and Rasmus Kristensen in a new centre-back role and despite what the result suggested the team played better than they had in the league win over Southampton at the weekend.
It was more of a counter attacking style on show and Leeds did it well at times.
The first chance saw Weston McKennie in space on the edge of the area, but instead of shooting he chose to try to slide in Summerville and his pass was overhit.
McKennie then saw his header from a corner saved with Rutter putting the rebound into the net only for his effort to be ruled out for a push by McKennie. VAR confirmed referee Chris Kavanagh’s decision, although it was a harsh call of the type Leeds are used to getting in London in recent years.
Fulham’s first shot did not come until the 21st minute and it brought them a goal as Palhinha seized upon a poor pass by Tyler Adams and fired a superb 30-yard shot into the top corner of the net.
The hosts did not manage another effort on goal in the rest of the first half, however, as Leeds’ response was good in every department apart from the finishing.
Within a minute of going behind they had a similar chance to Fulham, but Marc Roca’s shot was straight at home keeper Marek Rodak.
Willy Gnonto became the second United player to put the ball in the net in vain as he was well offside as he shot home after an initial effort from Kristensen had been parried out to him.
Leeds’ luck was summed up further on the stroke of half-time when Rutter’s looping header from Gnonto’s cross hit the post with Rodak beaten.
United made a storming start to the second half as Rutter sent Gnonto through, but his angled shot was well saved by Rodak.
Rutter then turned well in the area only for his shot to be too close to the keeper. A minute later the same player went on a good run to work space in the box, but sent his shot over.
Unbelievably Fulham’s second shot on target resulted in their second goal with Solomon cutting in from the left wing to curl a beauty past Meslier.
The hosts then managed their only effort from inside the area when Aleksandar Mitrovic’s shot was deflected wide.
But it was soon back to Leeds attacking as substitute Brenden Aaronson sent a volley wide after a dangerous cross by another sub Jack Harrison was not cleared.
It looked like a lesson in how not to score two minutes later when Harrison supplied another good cross and McKennie saw his shot from eight yards out blocked. Fulham could not clear and the ball then bounced off McKennie only to trickly agonisingly wide.
Robin Koch sent a near post volley wide from Kristensen’s fired in cross then Luke Ayling’s far post volley was cleared by Tim Ream with Rodak beaten, the ball came out to Adams on the edge of the box and the midfielder sent his shot wide.
Meslier made his only save six minutes from time to keep out Cedric’s 20-yard shot and predictably the last chance of the night would fall to United. Just as predictably the ball went just wide again with Summerville a little unlucky with his strike from just outside the box.
(Palhinha 21, Solomon 56)
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
FA Cup round 5
Fulham: Rodak; Cedric (Tete 90), Tosin, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha (Reed 81), Andreas; Wilson (Decordova-Reid 81), Lukic, Solomon (Willian 81); Mitrovic (Vinicius 68).
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Kristensen, Koch, Firpo; Adams, Roca (Aaronson 74), McKennie; Summerville, Rutter (Bamford 63), Gnonto (Harrison 63).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh