Crystal Palace 0 Leeds United 0: ‘Positives’ for Jesse Marsch after stalemate
With Burnley still kicking and fighting, Leeds still have plenty to play for and the small picture was of a clean sheet against a Crystal Palace team with the attacking talents of Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, Jean-Philippe Mateta, Conor Gallagher and substitute Michael Olise, and another point towards safety.
“What I will really be focusing on is the positives,” said Marsch afterwards and the main one is five matches unbeaten.
Marsch has talked a lot recently about Leeds United going through the gears but so far in his management, they have only ever hurtled at full throttle. It worked against Norwich City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, Watford and to an extent a Palace side who for all that they are rightly lauded are only four points above Leeds.
The team is certainly far more solid defensively than under Marcelo Bielsa but now Leeds’s season is entering a new phase, with games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, perhaps something a bit more sophisticated is needed.
Leeds drew a blank and if anyone was going to score it looked much more likely to be the hosts.
The football Marsch has Leeds playing is certainly exhilarating and the ramshackle Selhurst Park under floodlights seemed a fitting setting. Palace’s talented young team were up for the challenge in a game which was edgy without ever going fully over the edge.
It was an arm wrestle in football form.
In Kalvin Phillips, making his first start of 2022, Rodrigo, Raphinha and substitutes Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt, Leeds have players capable of putting their foot on the ball but most of what little quality there was tended to come from the hosts.
Fortunately, the Whites had Diego Llorente in good form.
The Spaniard can be a bit bull in a china shop at times, but struck the right balance to frustrate Palace in the opening stages in particular and although he picked up a booking for an ill-advised wrestle of Zaha, when the free-kick was cleared to Gallagher, the midfielder sliced his shot just over.
Llorente’s first big contribution was superfluous in some respects but set an important tone.
Mateta got in behind left-back Stuart Dallas but his shot around Illan Meslier appeared to be going wide before Llorente got back to clear.
His 15th-minute tackle was crucial, even if he needed some luck. Again it came down Palace’s right, this time through Jordan Ayew. When he crossed, Llorente slid in to tackle and the ball bounced off Mateta and wide.
The other flank was a battle ground, Zaha frequently inviting fouls and Leeds happy to take up the offer. He got increasingly wound up at what he felt was unfair treatment and looked as likely to be carded as his markers.
Palace were certainly not going through the motions, maybe spooked by Burnley’s revival into thinking their season was not yet done.
It took until midway through the first half for Leeds to pose any significant threat, largely from set pieces.
Liam Cooper headed straight at Vicente Guaita from a corner Jack Harrison won and we had the unusual sight of a Raphinha long throw, worked to Dallas, whose shot was blocked.
Even with the prodigiously-talented Greenwood and Gelhardt on, Leeds’s attacking threat remained sporadic at best, Raphinha coming inside and having a shot deflect wide less than a minute into the second half was no sign of a sea-change.
Despite howls for a penalty, Ayling put in a brilliant tackle to stop the increasingly influential Gallagher plucking Zaha out in the 53rd minute.
Minutes later Cooper produced a crucial interception to make up for conceding possession.
Zaha shot over after a pirouette, then fired at Meslier after rescuing Olise’s cross.
He forced a double save from a tight angle, the second instinctively stopped by Meslier’s right foot.
When Zaha turned creator, Mateta skied the shot.
Gallagher followed his sliced effort with one which lacked power. Another, straight at Meslier, drew groans. Zaha curled wide in the second added minute.
For now, Leeds are not to be beaten. The rest will have to wait.
Crystal Palace: Guaita; Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Ward; McArthur (Schlupp 78), Gallagher; Ayew (Olise 67), Eze, Zaha; Mateta (Benteke 84). Unused substitutes: Butland, Tomkins, Kouyate, Hughes, Edouard, Kelly.
Leeds United: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips, Klich (Koch 46); Raphinha, Harrison, Rodrigo (Gelhardt 74); James (Greenwood 59). Unused substitutes: Klaesson, Firpo, Struijk, Cresswell, Kenneh, Bate.
Referee: D England (Doncaster).