A CONTROVERSIAL 90th minute goal denied Leeds United a win against promotion contenders West Ham in front of their biggest crowd of the season at Elland Road, writes Tony Harber
In a tight, physical contest the Whites had edged in front through Luciano Becchio’s close range header seven minutes from time only to have to settle for a point after Danny Collins headed home for the Hammers as the game entered injury-time.
The equaliser had a hint of luck in it for the visitors as Darren O’Dea appeared to be knocked to the ground by Carlton Cole as a corner came in and with keeper Andy Lonergan hesitant Collins was able to take full advantage to head into the net from inside the six-yard box.
It had been hard work for an unchanged Leeds line-up, but they edged the first half off the back of outstanding midfield displays by Adam Clayton and Michael Brown even if clear chances were hard to come by.
Clayton went closest to opening the scoring with a snap shot that went just wide while Robert Snodgrass had England squad keeper Robert Green beaten with an angled free-kick only to see the ball go inches wide.
Snodgrass did have the ball in the net in injury-time, but saw his effort ruled out for a foul in the build-up given against Becchio.
West Ham’s only real chance of the first half came when Nicky Maynard raced clear only to be denied by Lonergan, who came smartly off his line to save and gather the ball after it went loose.
The Hammers saw more of the ball after the break and had more threat when Carlton Cole came on up front. But Leeds still had the better chances as Paul Connolly headers brought two saves out of Green.
Cole and Abdoulaye Faye went close with headers for West Ham and Mark Noble’s shot from the edge of the box was comfortably saved by Lonergan before the real drama came in the last 10 minutes.
Leeds’ hard work looked to have paid off on 83 minutes when Snodgrass’s cross was only half-cleared by Green to Connolly, who then sent a header crashing against the crossbar. Luck was on the Whites’ side this time as the ball bounced off the woodwork straight to Becchio, who could not miss from close range for his ninth goal of the season.
But the joy proved shortlived as the visitors won a corner in the 90th minute and came up with an equaliser to earn what could be a precious point in their bid for automatic promotion.
Leeds United 1
West Ham United 1
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Leeds: Lonergan, Connolly, Lees, O’Dea, Robinson, White (Webber 76), Brown, Clayton, Snodgrass, McCormack (Forssell 76), Becchio.
West Ham: Green, O’Brien, Collins, Faye, McCartney, Collison (Morrison 82), Noble, Tomkins (O’Neil 45), Nolan, Taylor, Maynard (Cole 56).
Referee: Peter Walton.