Crystal Palace 0 Leeds 0
If avoiding relegation is about rolling sleeves up and fighting for everything then, on this evidence, Leeds should just about make it.
A second successive clean sheet on the road earned Jesse Marsch’s side a point that could prove priceless in a few weeks. It was definitely not pretty on a night when tempers were frayed on both sides, though with Palace having now moved within sight of securing their Premier League status for another season there was no reason for Patrick Vieira to complain other than perhaps a below-par performance of the referee.
Sixteen days had passed since Leeds defeated Watford in their last match but Burnley’s resurgence since sacking Sean Dyche meant that this was an opportunity to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle. At least Marsch was able to name Kalvin Phillips in his starting lineup for the first time, with the England midfielder making a return from a hamstring injury sustained in December.
The absence of Phillips has certainly not helped Leeds’s predicament, although Marsch’s return of 10 points from six games since taking over from Marcelo Bielsa at the end of February has eased some of the pressure.
The American shared a warm embrace with Vieira before kick-off having locked horns with the Palace manager while in charge of New York Red Bulls and New York City FC respectively in the MLS, although he probably didn’t mention that the last two meetings ended in 4-0 victories for Marsch.
Palace seemed determined to make amends for a disappointing run of three defeats that included the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea, having put seven goals without reply past Arsenal and Everton in their last two matches here. Jean-Philippe Mateta had an early sighter after racing on to a long pass but his lob over Illan Meslier lacked power, while a stretching Diego Llorente just did enough to deny the Frenchman following a teasing cross from Jordan Ayew.
While the travelling supporters made their frustrations known over the decision to schedule this match on an evening when there were no trains back to Yorkshire, they had little to excite them on the pitch until Liam Cooper’s header from a Jack Harrison corner that went straight into Vicente Guaita’s arms in the 27th minute.
Pitted against a potential rival for a place in England’s World Cup squad in the incessant Conor Gallagher, Phillips was one of three Leeds players to avoid being cautioned by the referee, Darren England, for fouls on Wilfried Zaha in the first half .
Luke Ayling managed to escape after two fouls on the Ivory Coast forward and some of Zaha’s frustration seemed to boil over when he appeared to raise his hands towards Raphinha, although the Brazilian certainly made the most of the opportunity to throw himself to the ground and there was no punishment.
In an increasingly bad-tempered game, Joachim Andersen became the first player to be shown a yellow card just before half-time as England left the pitch to a chorus of boos from the Palace fans.
Palace have not conceded a first half goal at home since losing to Liverpool on January 23rd but they were almost caught napping at the restart as Leeds – who had introduced Robin Koch in place of Mateusz Klich in midfield – went on the attack. Joel Ward earned himself a booking after reacting to a scything tackle from Daniel James as the evening picked up where it had left off before the break.
The Welshman’s night was over soon afterwards as Marsch turned to teenager Sam Greenwood for his fourth league appearance off the bench. The 20-year-old’s first act was to inadvertently divert a shot from Harrison off target with his heel.
Mateta’s effort after a driving run and low cross from Zaha was even more wayward, with Vieira subsequently turning to Michael Olise in an attempt to find the breakthrough.
Palace certainly looked more likely to snatch the victory once the France Under-21 forward was introduced, with Gallagher’s appeals for a penalty against Llorente correctly turned down by VAR.
The Spaniard was booked for dragging back Zaha before the Palace forward forced Meslier into a double save with his legs at the near post, while the Frenchman again stood firm when Gallagher was set up by a brilliant piece of skill by Olise to make sure Leeds earned their share of the spoils. – Guardian