Leeds United

Leeds United


Leeds United latest: Phil Hay shares what Luke Ayling told teammates after red card at Arsenal

Luke Ayling, Leeds United stand-in captain, during the Premier League match against Liverpool at Anfield

Leeds United full-back Luke Ayling has apologised to his teammates in the aftermath of his season-ending dismissal at Arsenal on Sunday.

United went into the game at Emirates Stadium firmly embroiled in a scrap for Premier League survival. A superb run of form from Burnley of late has dragged Leeds right back into the mix. And while the Clarets were beaten at home by Aston Villa on Saturday, Leeds still needed a positive result at Arsenal.

However, Mikel Arteta’s side went 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes. Their opener came courtesy of Eddie Nketiah, who made the most of hestitancy from Illan Meslier to fire home from close range. That said, Meslier was done no favours from Ayling’s back pass.

Ayling was also one of those at fault for Arsenal’s second after his side of the defence was badly exposed.

Worse was to come though as Ayling saw red following a reckless 27th-minute challenge on Gabriel Martinelli.

That left Leeds with a mountain to climb – and ultimately saw them fall to a defeat that left them in the relegation zone after Everton’s 2-1 at Leicester.

It won’t surprise you to learn that Ayling scored an embarrassing 2/10 in our Player Ratings from Emirates Stadium.

It also means Ayling – Leeds captain for the day in the absence of Liam Cooper – must serve a three-match ban. That rules him out of their final matches of the season, against Chelsea, Brighton and Brentford.

And on Ayling’s 500th appearance as a professional footballer, the experienced defender could scarcely have experienced worse days.

Leeds United did pull a goal back in the second half thanks to Diego Llorente’s fourth goal in Whites colours.

But the 10 men couldn’t salvage a miraculous point as their relegation feared heightened.

Luke Ayling apology

Sharing the apology Ayling offered his teammates at the break, The Athletic’s Phil Hay has revealed Ayling’s remorse.

“The red card went to Luke Ayling, captain against his boyhood club on his 500th professional appearance, midway through the first half but an apology from the defender to the dressing room was enough for his head coach,” he wrote.

During the half-time interval, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher turned on Ayling for his dismissal.

“What an idiot,” Carragher said of his tackle. “It might be the last game Luke Ayling ever plays in the Premier League.”

Carragher later toned down his assessment though admitting he had been ‘harsh’ on the player.

Star has let everyone down

While Leeds boss Jesse Marsch is refusing to blame Ayling, the defender will know he has let the club down badly.

As the captain and one of the most experienced players, Ayling surely should have shown much better temperament.

Two yellows is perhaps excusable, but a straight red, together with a three-match ban, comes at the worst possible time.

This Leeds side is badly stretched as it is with injuries and now suspensions. And now they are staring down the barrel of relegation.

They will likely now need to play Jamie Shackleton as a make-shift right-back, or possibly a wing-back if they revert to a three-man defence.

And whatever happens, an inferior goal difference means they must claim one point more than Burnley in their final three matches.

Otherwise, all Leeds’ good work over the last three years will be undone. And, unless they show some fight and do overhaul Burnley, the club will be right back where they started.

And certainly far from Ayling’s fault, they really could have done without this needless ban at such a critical juncture.