Leeds 2-3 Fulham: Cottagers complete turnaround as Jesse Marsch is sent off at Elland Road

Leeds 2-3 Fulham: Cottagers complete turnaround as Jesse Marsch is sent off at Elland Road

Long before Marcelo Bielsa left Leeds United last season, the club had identified Jesse Marsch as his replacement. In terms of succession planning, it was thorough.

Now, however, Leeds may soon have a more immediate decision to make. Leeds are adrift – to put it politely – under Marsch and the Elland Road board face a real test of nerves.

Marsch will argue that there is some evidence in his favor. His team look set to remain committed and they spend periods of Premier League games looking like a team capable of progressing in this environment.

Willian's goal was enough to give Fulham three points against Leeds at Elland Road

Willian’s goal was enough to give Fulham three points against Leeds at Elland Road

Leeds striker Rodrigo gave his side the lead in the 20th minute after he headed in

Leeds striker Rodrigo gave his side the lead in the 20th minute after he headed in

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was under pressure from the home crowd going into the game

Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was under pressure from the home crowd going into the game

Unfortunately, Leeds’ football where it really matters – at each end of the pitch – continues to undermine Marsch, as do the statistics.

Leeds are in the bottom three now. They have not won since August 21 in the league and have taken two points from a dismal eight-match run that has followed.

As Marsch led his team off the field at the end of a third defeat in a week, it was a simple question asked by some sections of the support. “What the hell was that?”, they sang, and with good reason.

Match the facts

LEEDS UNITED: (4-1-4-1) Meslier 6; Ayling 6.5, Koch 5.5, Cooper 5.5, Struijk 6 (Gelhardt 84min 6); Roca 6; Harrison 6, Aaronson 6.5, Greenwood 6 (Klich 75 minutes 6), Sinisterra 6.5 (Summerville 63 minutes 6); Rodrigo 6.5 (Bamford 63 minutes 5.5).

GOAL: Rodrigo 20, Summerville 90+1

ORDERED: Cooper

JESSE MARSCH: 5

FULHAM: (4-2-3-1) Leno 6.5; Cordova-Reid 7, Tosin 6, Ream 6.5, Robinson 6.5; Reed 6, Palhinha 6; Wilson 6 (Kebano 63 mins 6), Pereira 6.5, Willian 6.5 (Duffy 88 mins 6); Mitrovic 6 (Vinicius 90mns 6).

GOAL: Mitrovic 26, De Cordova-Reid 74, Willian 84

ORDERED: Robinson

MARCO SILVA: 7

JUDGE: Anthony Taylor 6

As they had here against Arsenal last week, Leeds were progressive at times against a Fulham side that looked increasingly comfortable in the top flight under Marco Silva. Leeds even took the lead through Rodrigo in the 20th minute.

But there continues to be a sense of chaos around this Leeds team at times and it continues to cost them. They then created chances they didn’t take and eventually conceded three rather awful goals to lose the game in convincing fashion when substitute Crysencio Sunmmerville pulled one back in stoppage time.

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The first two Fulham goals were headers. One, just after Leeds had taken the lead, was converted at the near post by Aleksandar Mitrovic and went straight through the hands of goalkeeper Illian Meslier. The second, with sixteen minutes remaining, came off the head of the smallest man on the pitch, Fulham defender Bobby De Cordova-Reid. Soon after, Leeds lost the ball inside their own penalty area and the Brazilian Willian sorted things out for Fulham.

3-1 should become 3-2, but that will not console Marsch. Teams around him at the bottom have fired managers, with varying degrees of success. He will undoubtedly wonder if his turn will come.

His side had been terrible in losing to Leicester three days earlier and Marsch made six changes in light of that disappointment. Fulham, meanwhile, had been excellent to overcome Aston Villa on the same night, a result that cost Steven Gerrard his job.

Here Leeds were brighter early on. However, there were shades of how they had played and lost to Arsenal here a week earlier. Once again, they lacked a focal point.

Leeds have talented attacking players. Jack Kennedy was courted by Newcastle for a reason this summer. Here he tricked his way to the sideline in the sixth minute, but then found no teammate. Away on the left, Luis Sinisterra did the same a minute later, but he couldn’t find the right pass either.

This may be typical for Leeds. Promising but ultimately wasted. And vulnerable behind.

Fulham had started slowly and had barely been in the game, but then almost out of nowhere they came close to taking the lead in the 14th minute.

A neat pass from midfield gave left-back Antonee Robinson space to run in and when his cross was kicked on by Mitrovic, Harrison Reed found himself in space. The 27-year-old controlled the ball well and looked certain to score only for his low shot to be blocked on the line by Marc Roca with the ball then hacked clear by Robin Koch.

Fulham equalized through Aleksandar Mitrovic when he headed past Ilan Meslier at the near post

Fulham equalized through Aleksandar Mitrovic when he headed past Ilan Meslier at the near post

It was a fantastic piece of work by Roca in particular. He had no right to stop the shot, really. And within four minutes Leeds were themselves in the lead.

Robinson was involved again, this time sliding as a pass from Brenden Aaronson set off. Harrison was in place behind the Fulham defender and only had the goalkeeper to beat. In truth, he took too long and that allowed Tim Ream to block. But then when the ball ran up from the Fulham captain, Rodrigo leapt high above Tosin Aadarabioyo to head the ball in from less than six yards.

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It was a lead Leeds desperately wanted and only the second time Marsch’s players had scored first in a Premier League game since beating Chelsea here in August. As such a period of consolidation would have been helpful, but it was not to be and Fulham’s equalizer was painfully straight forward.

The goal was the Serbian forward's eighth of the Premier League season for Fulham

The goal was the Serbian forward’s eighth of the Premier League season for Fulham

Meslier made a great save to deny Periera to give Fulham the lead in the 37th minute

Meslier made a great save to deny Periera to give Fulham the lead in the 37th minute

Mitrovic stole a yard on Luke Ayling at the near post from a corner and his header went straight through Meslier’s save and into the net.

For the next ten minutes, Leeds were at their absolute worst. There was a sense of madness about their football and it almost cost them when they were brought on too many players in the Fulham half 15 minutes before the break.

When Ayling lost a dual with Willian ten yards inside Fulham territory, the Brazilian was able to play Andreas Pereira clear into seas of space with a simple pass.

Bobby Decordova-Reid scored his side's second goal to give them the lead at Elland Road

Bobby Decordova-Reid scored his side’s second goal to give them the lead at Elland Road

Pereira should have scored. Or he should have gone to the right where a teammate had worked hard to catch up and provide an option. Instead, the right-footed instep shot was telegraphed a bit and Meslier dived to his left to parry.

Fulham looked set to score again at that point but the imminent threat disappeared and for the first 20 minutes or so of the second half Leeds were once again the better team. Half chances came their way, but nothing more.

Rodrigo drove an angled shot into Bernd Leno’s midfield in the first minute of the second period and then Sinisterra Aaronson slipped through. A first-time left-footed shot would probably have served the American best, but instead he checked back to his right and curled a shot about half a yard over the crossbar.

Rodrigo flashed a shot wide of the near post soon after before Ayling progressed to a quickly taken free-kick to fire low and wide from 20 yards. Next up was Sam Greenwood who worked Leno from a similar distance.

The threat from Leeds was obvious, but how many life-size saves had Leno been asked to make? None, really.

Fulham’s own threat was carried out almost exclusively on the break, but it remained. Portuguese holding player Palhinha was played ready on the hour but was too slow and Ayling took him. Then, not long after, Mitrovic went on unmarked for a free-kick and headed over.

Patrick Bamford was on as a substitute for Leeds now and his first big chance had come and gone in the 67th minute. Bamford’s movement is often first class, but his finishing can be less so. Here he was played in on goal only for his first touch to be heavy, meaning Leno could advance to smother his second, a shot poked in with the outside of his right foot.

Patrick Bamford spurned a good chance to put Leeds ahead in the second half

Patrick Bamford spurned a good chance to put Leeds ahead in the second half

Crysencio Summerville scored a very late consolation goal for Leeds in their loss to Fulham

Crysencio Summerville scored a very late consolation goal for Leeds in their loss to Fulham

It was a great chance that was missed and within ten minutes Leeds had paid a heavy price. Again it was too easy for Fulham. A corner from the right was returned to Pereira and when he crossed to the near post, De Cordova-Reid was unmarked to head over Meslier and in at the far post.

A pattern that threatens to kill Leeds and do for their manager, such defensive self-destruction was evident again when Willian scored to turn the mood here feverish. It was Reed who pulled the ball back for the Brazilian to score from eleven yards, but it had been a Leeds player – Liam Cooper – whose dangling leg had presented the ball to the opposition in his own penalty area in the first place.

Summerville was played in to score by Joe Gelhardt in the 91st minute, but by then this game was over.

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