Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch has given his thoughts on his team’s 2-2 draw with West Ham, in an emotional night which will ultimately be Mateusz Klich’s last game for the Whites.
The Polish midfielder was in floods of tears as the Leeds squad gave him a guard of honour as he left the pitch at Elland Road for the final time, as he also received a heartwarming reception from the fans.
Leeds got off to a great start in the match, with William Gnonto opening the scoring in the 27th minute with his first-ever Premier League goal, with a powerful left-footed finish into the bottom corner.
However, despite Leeds largely being the better team, West Ham fought back and found the equalizer just before halftime, with Lucas Paqueta clinically converting a penalty to get his first goal for the Hammers.
Then, just one minute into the second half, Gianluca Scamacca dealt another blow to the Yorkshire side, after capitalizing on a Brendan Aaronson misplaced pass and smashing the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards out to make it 2-1.
It could have been a massive three points for David Moyes, but Leeds responded with a good goal of their own, as Rodrigo equalized in the 70th minute with an emphatic strike into the bottom corner, following an good pass from Jack Harrison.
There were some close calls for Leeds in the last 20 minutes, but ultimately they had to settle for a somewhat disappointing point.
Marsch wants Leeds players to believe in themselves
Commenting on the Whites’ performance, Marsch praised his player’s ‘heart mentality,’ but also said that they don’t perform ‘the way they should’ in tense moments in matches, as we saw in this game.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “It was obviously great when we pushed in the game. This is a little bit what we’re like. We play better when our backs are against the wall and when we play against top opponents.
“When we need to be brave and play in games we should be in command, that’s what we find difficult and why we are not playing the way we want to right now.
“Obviously to get two goals and to come from behind and push for a third, that’s typical us again. But I am trying to get us to be better than just a team who just has heart as a mentality.
“We need the players to believe in themselves. They go through moments in the match where they are nervy, they don’t want the ball or commit to tactics. We don’t look the way we should be.
📰 #LUFC can announce Mateusz Klich will leave the club, pending an offer from Major League Soccer
— Leeds United (@LUFC) January 4, 2023
“What hurts me in these moments is I want to play with the team, I want to be at my best. David Moyes is a guy I have watched for many years and I guy that I respect and I am excited by the challenge of playing against his team.
“But we’ve got to find a way as a group to step up and individually find our quality.
“It’s confidence and belief and commitment to do the simple things we need to do at the highest level. Will we be up and down or will we continue to show progress?”
Rodrigo says Leeds ‘have to keep fighting’
Despite scoring an important goal to secure a draw, Rodrigo was frustrated with the result, after he saw a late effort saved brilliantly by Lukasz Fabianski.
Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “It’s always difficult to win the games, we know the level of this league. We have to think positive, to me we had more chances to win the game.
“I had the final chance which was a really good save from the keeper, I thought I scored.
“We have to keep going and we look forward to the next one. We are looking forward to those challenges.
“All the games are important, we are competitors we want to win all the games. The level of the league is super high.
“We have to keep fighting, we deserved more but we will have to keep fighting.”
Leeds face Cardiff City in the FA Cup on Sunday, before returning to Premier League action against Aston Villa next week, in what could prove to be an enthralling encounter.