How Anfield trip fuelled Leeds United’s hunger for the big-time

Kemar Roofe, who struck a post for Leeds, battles through the Liverpool defence at Anfield. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Kemar Roofe, who struck a post for Leeds, battles through the Liverpool defence at Anfield. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

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EVEN before a ball had been kicked in anger ahead of Leeds United’s first visit to Anfield in more than 13 years, the general consensus among players, club officials and supporters was that this is where the Yorkshire club wants to be.

By full-time, those same players had delivered proof that maybe, just maybe, United under Garry Monk do possess the battling qualities and ability required to make league trips to Liverpool an annual occurrence once again.

Kemar Roofe, one of many heroes in white and desperately unlucky not to break the deadlock when he struck a post early in the second half, certainly believes so. “One of the comments we made in the dressing room before the game was that we want to go to places like Anfield every week in the league,” the £3m summer signing from Oxford United told The Yorkshire Post.

“Next time, we want to play them again in the Premier League. This is the stage we want to be playing at.

“I hadn’t played at Anfield before and I enjoyed it. The stadium is good but, if I am honest, I don’t focus on anything like that. The pitch is my sole focus because I wanted the win.

“I felt there were a lot of positives to take out of the Liverpool game even though we lost. We weren’t the favourites to win and it was also a top team we were up against. But we gave it everything and people can see that. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t score ourselves and ended up going out.”

Roofe was not the only United player to go close to scoring before Liverpool claimed a semi-final place with two goals in the final 18 minutes.

Hadi Sacko had an excellent early chance, and Kyle Bartley should have done better when left unmarked just six yards out at a time when the Reds were struggling to contain the Championship side.

“We took the game to Liverpool,” added Roofe. “That is what we are about, our mentality as a group is to be positive.

“We want to make it a battle and take the opposition to the trenches to see who really wants to win the game. Make it a battle.”

On his 52nd-minute curled effort that beat Simon Mignolet but not the upright, Roofe added: “I did feel the shot was going to hit the post and go in.

“But, unfortunately, it didn’t. Things just aren’t happening for me in front of goal. But I am happy with my performances and if I can keep doing that, the goals will come.”

Next up for Leeds is a visit from Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa in Saturday’s televised tea-time encounter.

Marco Silvestri, a big hero in United’s run to the quarter-finals, is expected to be replaced by Robert Green in goal.

Despite that frustration, the Italian believes the current squad could be on the verge of bringing long-overdue success to Elland Road.

“I have been here three years and we have changed a lot of players,” said Silvestri. “That is not always easy. But this group is good.

“All my team-mates are smart people and we can do well. When you win, it is, of course, easy to stay together. But this is a strong group that can do well. We want to do something big in the Championship.”

As for his own situation, Silvestri added: “For me, I don’t play but the team do well so it is difficult to change when everything is good. I know that.

“I try to do everything I can when I play in the Cup to help the team. When the gaffer wants me, I am ready.”

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