Mateusz Klich reveals point of Leeds United turnaround

It was at the City Ground where Leeds United’s players decided enough was enough.

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Every team goes through a rough patch of the season – even the seemingly untouchable Liverpool were on a run of four defeats in six before the coronavirus suspension – and the Whites’ wobble started with December’s 3-3 draw at home to Cardiff City.

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Surrendering a 3-0 lead prompted a sequence of 12 matches only two of which Leeds won. With memories of how the previous season’s promotion push collapsed midway through, it was the last thing supporters needed for their peace of mind.

Turning point: Leeds United’s Mateusz Klich takes on Nottingham Forest’s Samba Sow in the Whites’ 2-0 defeat at the City Ground back in January. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

During most of that period, Leeds could at least claim to have played the better football, but not at Nottingham Forest, where they were all over the place at times in a televised 2-0 defeat.

The post-match press conference was tetchy, coach Marcelo Bielsa again forced to come to the defence of his goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who was starting to exhaust the patience of Leeds fans. There were questions too about centre-forward Patrick Bamford, who had wasted a good chance in the first half and had only scored in one of the previous eight matches.

Particularly in division’s as notoriously inconsistent as the Championship, difficult moments are inevitable even for the best teams, the key is how you respond. Looking back on it, Mateusz Klich has revealed the galvanising effect that night had on his team-mates.

“After the Nottingham Forest game we said, ‘This is enough,’ and that from the Brentford game we needed to play better,” recalled the Polish midfielder.

Leeds United's Mateusz Klich takes on Town's Slex Pritchard and Emile Smith Rowe. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe )

“The Brentford game was a perfect game for us, we could have won it and we should have won it.

“After that we showed everyone we are really strong and we can really do it but obviously something has got in our way now.”

The Brentford game three days later was drawn, 1-1, and after that Leeds won their next five matches in a row without conceding a goal.

Casilla started that run, shutting out Bristol City, Reading and Middlesbrough, then handing over to deputy Illan Meslier when he was banned for eight matches for allegedly using racist language towards Congolese forward Jonathan Leko in September’s trip to Charlton Athletic.

In the last of the five games, Bamford broke his duck, scoring his 13th goal of the season as a reinvigorated Huddersfield Town were beaten 2-0 at Elland Road.

Having allowed them to catch up during their wobble, Bielsa’s men are now seven points clear of third-placed Fulham with nine matches to play.

How and when English football chooses to come out of the coronavirus lockdown will go a long way to determining Leeds fate, but if they do end up back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004, they can look back on a miserable night in the east Midlands as vitally important.

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