Leeds United's Diego Llorente strikes a blow for football fans in draw with Super League hopefuls Liverpool

Much of the talk was more about the proposed European Super League than the football on the pitch, but Leeds United found a way to make a point for themselves and the traditional English game when they came from behind to draw with reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.

By Tony Harber
Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 8:00 am
Equaliser: Diego Llorente.
Equaliser: Diego Llorente.

With Liverpool one of six Premier League clubs to have signed up to the new competition - to the anger of many supporters, some of who gathered outside Elland Road before the game to protest - it seemed Leeds were playing for the nation as well as themselves.

Even Gary Neville - never the biggest Leeds fan - said he hoped Marcelo Bielsa's men would put one over one of the so-called big clubs planning a breakaway.

It was not looking so hopeful when the Whites had to work hard to contain Liverpool early on and went behind to a Sadio Mane goal, but the way they recovered to deservedly take something from the game earned more plaudits after the match.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

Diego Llorente's first goal in a Leeds shirt with a bullet header three minutes from time earned the 1-1 draw and it could have been all three points for the Whites had Patrick Bamford not been unlucky to hit the crossbar.

United boss Marcelo Bielsa thought it had been a "beautiful game" and his side were more than worthy of taking home a point.

He said: “In the first half it was more even and in the second half we managed to dominate proceedings.

“We created goalscoring opportunities and we played in the opponents half. We recovered many balls which allowed us to attack.”

On the background to the match taking place following the announcement of the European Super League, Bielsa backed the stance taken by Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani, who has come out strongly against the plans.

He added: “The president of the club put his foot forward to limit the power of these big clubs. This is something to celebrate.

“Of course there are different teams more important than others, but they should be conscious of the needs that we need each other.

“But, because football has a view that it is more commercial now, it’s natural that in the world of businesses and looking only at the economic aspect, they are the ones that produce the most and demand the majority of it.

“That’s something that is common in the world of business, but football is not only a business. Football belongs to everybody, the real owners of football are the ones who love the badge and without them football would disappear.

“Any decisions that attacks all these people that are fans of football, and that privileges only one sector, is staking the future.”

It took Leeds a while to get their football going against a Liverpool side pushing for a top four place should it matter at the end of the season.

The first action of note saw home keeper Illan Meslier have to tip a Thiago shot over. Roberto Firmino tested the stopper with another strike from outside the box with this one more easily dealt with.

The first threat from the hosts saw Ezgjan Alioski's dangerous low ball into box sliced just wide of his own goal by Reds defender Ozan Kabak.

Three minutes later Kalvin Phillips cleverly intercepted a pass out of defence by Fabinho and quickly played in Patrick Bamford only for the striker to be denied in a one-on-one with keeper Alisson.

Liverpool took the lead on the half-hour when Diego Jota's smart through ball found Trent Alexander-Arnold and he quickly squared the ball to give Mane a tap-in.

Jota blazed over soon after when Alexander-Arnold had got in behind the home defence again while the same player almost got on the end of a loose headed back pass by Llorente, but was denied by Meslier.

Leeds responded, but Tyler Roberts' shot from just inside the box lacked power and was easily saved by Alisson.

Firmino made space to get a shot in early in the second half, but saw his effort saved. Jota then headed over when unmarked to meet a corner, but that was the last seen of the visitors in attack for some time.

Gradually United got on top as Jack Harrison saw one shot deflected over and another saved by Alisson when he only had the keeper to beat.

Helder Costa turned an effort over the bar at the back post after a corner had been flicked on and the pressure was mounting.

With 16 minutes left, Leeds were inches away from levelling as Bamford controlled a clever chip over the top from the impressive Luke Ayling and instantly shot only to see his effort come back off the crossbar.

Another great chance followed two minutes later when Roberts was put in by substitute Ian Poveda, but his shot was too close to Alisson.

Liverpool sent on their sub, Mo Salah, and he latched onto a long ball only to shoot inches wide, although he looked offside in the build-up.

The Whites finally got the goal their play deserved, however, as Llorente climbed well to meet a Harrison corner and powered home a header. It was almost as if all the extra support Leeds had for this game played a part.

Leeds United 1

(Llorente 87)

Liverpool 1

(Mane 30)

Premier League

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Alioski (Klich 79); Phillips; Costa (Poveda 67), Dallas, Roberts (Hernandez 85), Harrison; Bamford.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Kabak, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum, Milner; Jota (Oxlade-Chamberlain 81), Firmino, Mane (Salah 71).

Referee: Anthony Taylor.