Leeds United saluted the return of their talisman as striker Patrick Bamford marked his first appearance since September with a 95th-minute equaliser in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Brentford at Elland Road.
Tyler Roberts, making his 100th appearance for Leeds, gave the hosts a 27th-minute lead with a poacher’s finish, sliding on to Raphinha’s cross from the left to stab the ball home.
Shandon Baptiste equalised for the Bees, his shot from the edge of the penalty area from Sergi Canos’ deflected cross making it 1-1 in the 54th minute.
Canos then fired Thomas Frank’s side into a 2-1 lead as the Londoners turned the game on its head in the 61st minute, but substitute Bamford’s close-range finish in the final minute of stoppage time rescued a point for Leeds.
The result moves Leeds into 14th place on 16 points – six points above the relegation zone heading into a difficult run of fixtures – while Brentford stay in 11th position on 17 points.
Leeds: Meslier (6), Ayling (7), Firpo (5), Llorente (6), Cooper (5), Forshaw (6), Dallas (6), Phillips (5), Raphinha (7), Roberts (8), James (6).
Subs: Bamford (7), Harrison (6), Klich (6).
Brentford: Fernandez (6), Henry (7), Jansson (6), Goode (6), Pinnock (6), Baptiste (7), Roerslev (8), Janelt (6), Norgaard (6), Canos (8), Mbeumo (6).
Subs: Jensen (n/a), Wissa (6), Onyeka (n/a)
Man of the match: Tyler Roberts.
How Bamford rescued high-octane Leeds
Leeds head out onto the pitch on Sunday
“I felt rusty as hell to be honest. But I always felt once I was out on the pitch I was going to get one touch,” Bamford said afterwards.
Raphinha’s late penalty turned one point into three last time out against Crystal Palace, making life a little bit more comfortable for Marcelo Bielsa’s side. They finally had Bamford back for the visit of Brentford, who have refused to show signs of strain.
There was certainly relief at beating Everton last weekend but they were powerless to halt Tottenham on Thursday and arrived at Elland Road only a point above Leeds in the table. With two fewer days’ recuperation and against a team that revel in a high-energy approach, Frank’s men were going to need to dig deep into their reserves.
Patrick Bamford was back on the bench for Leeds after missing the last 11 games while Luke Ayling, who had been out for the same length of time, was selected in the starting line-up.
Ivan Toney missed out for Brentford after testing positive for Covid-19. Shandon Baptiste and Mads Roerslev returned to the starting line-up.
Ahead of the game, Frank spoke in glowing terms about his “big inspiration” Bielsa, a man he has admired from afar since his days as Denmark’s U16s coach, and whose endorsement during an earlier meeting he still treasures.
But he was disappointed with his team’s efforts in an opening period Leeds dominated. In the absence of Ivan Toney following his positive Covid test, the Bees lacked a focal point. Bryan Mbeumo’s wild attempt from Ethan Pinnock’s cross from the left was the closest they came to threatening Illan Meslier’s goal as the hosts grew into the contest.
Sergi Canos and Liam Cooper battle for the ball
Bielsa was forced into an early change when captain Liam Cooper suffered a hamstring injury in attempting to block Mbeumo’s shot but, having introduced Jack Harrison and made a tactical alteration, Leeds duly struck on 27 minutes.
Bielsa had asked Raphinha to alternate wings with Harrison and it was while the Brazilian was operating down the left flank that his penetrative cross at the second attempt was prodded home instinctively by Roberts.
Tyler Roberts was booked shortly after his opener
With Bamford back on the bench, it was important that Roberts took his opportunity in his third league start of the campaign and he nearly doubled his tally for the season in one afternoon when he collected Dan James’ pass and forced Alvaro Fernandez into a fingertip save from distance.
Frank made no amendments at the interval but the visitors could easily have fallen further behind within five minutes of the restart as another inviting Raphinha delivery was headed goalwards by the returning Luke Ayling only for Fernandez to brilliantly claw his effort away.
Against the run of play, however, Brentford equalised as Pinnock was rewarded for chasing a lost cause before Canos’ deflected cross from the left was drilled into the bottom corner by the unmarked Baptiste on the edge of the box.
Cooper leaves the pitch with an injury
The goal came moments after Kalvin Phillips went down with what looked a muscular injury and with the England midfielder subsequently replaced, Brentford sensed an opportunity to turn the screw.
Canos really ought to have scored when he rose to meet Mads Roerslev’s cross at the far post only to somehow head wide, but he atoned for his miss almost immediately as Brentford completed the turnaround.
Leeds gave the ball away cheaply before Bapitste released the ball for Mbeumo and the timing of his pass to Canos was to perfection as he, in turn, lifted his shot above Meslier and into the roof of the net.
There were ugly scenes after Canos scored as he went over to the corner and celebrated in front of the Leeds fans and a missile thrown appeared to hit the Brentford goalscorer.
Canos celebrates scoring against Leeds
Canos went down holding the back of his neck before returning to the centre-circle, but the incident will no doubt go into referee David Coote’s report.
Bielsa immediately turned to Bamford with Leeds now chasing the game as Junior Firpo was removed, but there was little sign of Leeds reasserting themselves in Phillips’ absence before Bamford latched onto Ayling’s flick-on from Raphinha’s corner to snatch a point with virtually the last kick of the game.
The first half was much like the high-octane Leeds United of last season, and with Bamford nearing a return to full fitness, the fans may still head into the festive season feeling like the side can return to more like their former selves.
Elland Road was packed out for the Brentford clash
Leeds face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday December 11 (3pm), while Brentford host Watford on Friday Night Football.