Crysencio Summerville could hardly have believed his luck when he struck gold in the 89th minute against Liverpool. The Dutch international, on the eve of his 21st birthday, was in the right place at the right time, and with some intelligent movement and an early toe-poked finish, he bred new life into a Leeds United team in desperate need of form with a 2-1 win.
The traveling fans were swept into ecstasy when Summerville’s strike took Leeds out of the relegation places and eased the pressure on manager Jesse Marsch, who despite keeping the Yorkshire outfit up last season is yet to fully win over the fans. Indeed, the calls for the American’s head were replaced by American flags swung valiantly in the Anfield Road away section, as Leeds inflicted further damage on a struggling Liverpool side.
Despite an impressive start to the season, in which new signings Luis Sinisterra and Tyler Adams looked to evolve Leeds beyond their defensive fragility and gung-ho attack, reality soon crept in. Having lost four in a row before the trip to Merseyside, Premier League betting odds were swiftly tipping Leeds for the drop, and with such fine margins separating the bottom half of the table to the bottom three, it is very easy to get sucked into a relegation dogfight, with Marsch on the receiving end of most the criticism.
Whether it be the departure of key players in Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha – Or the fact that the American is not the archetypal coach for their situation, especially in comparison to the irrepressible figure of Marcelo Bielsa, a man redolent of a biblical figure on the south of the River Aire. Either way though, the three points were crucial. It will buy him some time ahead of the World Cup break.
“Everybody’s made a big deal about firing me but the board and I have been unified and we’ve stuck together,” Marsch said. “My focus was on the team. The ability for them, at an incredibly tough moment in the season at a very difficult place against one of the best teams in the world, to come away with three points is incredibly important.
“It was necessary to stop the bleeding. The guys are happy. There is music in the dressing room I want them to enjoy the moment, but we have used this to launch ourselves.”
When Mohamed Salah equalized after Rodrigo gave his side a shock lead, many assumed it would be a whitewash as soon as Liverpool stamped their authority on the game. However, Leeds showed defensive stability and resilience to keep the Reds out. Along with a great goalkeeper performance.
Illan Meslier was a massive part of the Liverpool win. The Frenchman will be key to Leeds’ survival, with his nine saves at Anfield evidence of his improvement. At just 22 years old he is showing experience deceptive of his years as a professional and alongside Summerville, Sinisterra, and Wilfried Gnonto, who also impressed in his substitute cameo, Leeds has the youthful exuberance required to beat the drop. Combined with their old guard — the poacher’s instinct of Rodrigo and the gritty leadership of captain Liam Cooper — Leeds should have the personality to ensure they spend a fourth successive year in England’s top flight. Only time will tell if Marsch is the man to lead them through.