Leeds United’s late defeat to West Ham at the weekend may have hurt their supporters badly – but the match will live long in the memory for Premier League debutant Charlie Cresswell.
The teenage centre-half was thrust into action in the wake of a crippling defensive crisis at Elland Road. With Robin Koch and Diego Llorente already sidelined, their woes were compounded by the ongoing suspension of Pascal Struijk. Luke Ayling’s injury – he faces another fortnight or so on the sidelines – further tested their resources.
As such, the club handed a first Premier League start to teenage star Cresswell. The son of former Leeds striker Richard Cresswell, the teenager had already impressed in the midweek cup game at Fulham.
Starting alongside captain Liam Cooper, the 19-year-old handled himself very well. He also gave one of the Premier League’s most in-form strikers in Michail Antonio a run for his money throughout.
However, it was Antonio who had the last laugh, latching on to a Declan Rice pass, tapping past Jamie Shackleton and then firing past Illan Meslier. It was a brutal defeat for Leeds, who, despite their injury issues, had taken the game to the Irons and led 1-0 at half-time.
Leeds also had chances to double their lead with Raphinha hitting the post and Mateusz Klich firing wide.
However, an unfortunate own goal from Junior Firpo and then Antonio’s late winner left them reeling.
The result was especially harsh for Cresswell, at whom Marcelo Bielsa could be heard screaming at after West Ham’s 90th-minute winner went in.
However, rather than berating the teenage defender, The Athletic’s Phil Hay claims he was instead urging his defender to use his considerable frame to try and find an equaliser.
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‘As the minutes of stoppage time counted down, Marcelo Bielsa and the coaches around him began gesticulating at defender Charlie Cresswell,’ Hay wrote.
‘”Go forward”, they urged him. “Abandon the defence and get into the West Ham United box. Find a goal from somewhere.”‘
Unfortunately for Leeds, it was not meant to be. As such, they remain winless and in the bottom three after three points from six games.
They face Watford next this coming Saturday in a crucial match at Elland Road.
Junior Firpo slated by Micah Richards
Firpo, meanwhile, has been criticised by Micah Richards for his role in West Ham’s equaliser. While Jarrod Bowen’s cross-shot deflected in off his thigh, it was his lack of positional sense in the build-up that infuriated the pundit.
“Firpo will just come into your picture here,” Richards highlighted on Match of the Day. “He’s playing left-back, he’s gone one-on-one, but he stays there. He leaves massive space, Phillips goes out and Bowen is by himself.
“Cooper doesn’t want to be isolated one vs one out there. But he tries to get in a position and they end up with an own goal. He’s not doing anything there really.”