Leeds United boss Daniel Farke unhappy 'crucial decision went against us' in Championship play-off semi-final at Norwich

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Daniel Farke was pleased with the way his players carried out his tactical plan, but unhappy with the match officials as Leeds United battled to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Championship play-off at Norwich City.

It is all to play for in the return leg at Elland Road on Thursday night after Farke took a pragmatic approach to try to ensure the Whites were more solid than in their previous two away games when they had conceded seven goals.

It worked to nullify the threat of a Norwich side with a strong home record this season and but for some, unfortunately all too typical, poor officiating the tactics could have brought even better reward as Leeds would have had a lead for the second leg.

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A marginal offside decision denied Junior Firpo a first half goal and United were cruelly denied an early penalty when Willy Gnonto was brought down. With the latter the foul started outside the box with a grab then went on into the area when the Italian winger was brought down by Borja Sainz's feet – yet nothing was given by referee Josh Smith who was well placed to see what happened and awarded free-kicks for far lesser offences throughout.

Crysencio Summerville was unable to add to his impressive season's goal tally in Leeds United's play-off semi-final at Norwich City.Crysencio Summerville was unable to add to his impressive season's goal tally in Leeds United's play-off semi-final at Norwich City.
Crysencio Summerville was unable to add to his impressive season's goal tally in Leeds United's play-off semi-final at Norwich City.

It was the latest of many refereeing errors that have gone against Leeds this season and while Farke was happy enough to take the draw he was left frustrated by the match officials yet again.

He said: “During the game I was 100 per cent convinced (it was a penalty), but watching it back the foul starts outside. “It was definitely a free-kick then.

“I'm still pretty annoyed with the offside. I can just recommend everyone should have a look on the scouting feed, it's not offside. In doubt you go in favour of the offensive team, it feels like this rule is not in place any more.

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“Small details make a difference, if you go in the lead it changes the picture.

“In the end everyone speaks about Wembley, a £100m game. On this level all the decisions have to be spot on. In doubt you give it in favour to the attacker. It's definitely not offside.

“I have 12 apologising letters already this season. Whatever, we have to make sure we find a way even though this crucial decision went against us.”

On the reasons for playing a more negative line-up with an extra midfielder in Archie Gray brought in for striker Joel Piroe, Farke explained: “The focus was on being rock solid, you can't be naive if you play in such a game.

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“When you play a play-off semi-final with two legs, an away draw and a clean sheet at a difficult ground is always a good and solid result, a basement situation for the second leg. I'm happy with the performance and result.

“The last games in the regular season were not great, we conceded too many goals and in away games especially. We wanted to be rock solid against the ball, didn't allow them to have one chance in play. We also dealt with set-pieces quite well. It was a good effort from my lads.

“The longer it went we had more control, gained confidence. We put lots of pressure on them, they defended well, well structured. It felt the momentum was on our side but you have to make sure you're not overmotivated and open spaces for counter attacks.

“Overall I have to say I'm pretty happy. We have a massive game on Thursday evening. It's just half-time.”

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It was typical play-off stuff with two teams looking to make sure they did not make any errors rather than looking to impose themselves on the game.

As Farke said Leeds were in control in the second half after an even first 45 minutes, but they struggled to create clear chances throughout with their big players just a little off it and a bit of their goal threat taken away with no Piroe or Patrick Bamford, who is likely to be out injured for the rest of the campaign.

Defensively the Whites were sound, Illan Meslier only having one routine save to make from a free-kick.

United's best chances were probably miskicks in the box by Georginio Rutter and Sam Byram plus a near post shot by Crysencio Summerville that was easily saved.

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The second leg is likely to be just as tense, but more action seems likely with so much at stake.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Championship play-offs, semi-final, first leg

Attendance: 26,982

Norwich: Gunn; Stacey, Duffy, Gibson, Giannoulis (McCallum 76); Nunez, McLean; Rowe (Fassnacht 60), Sara, Sainz; Sargent (van Hooijdonk 84).

Leeds: Meslier; Byram, Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo; Gruev, Kamara, Gray; Gnonto (Anthony 70), Summerville (James 88); Rutter (Piroe 70).

Referee: Josh Smith

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