Leeds manager Thomas Christiansen insisted he will not be sacked after two late goals gave Brentford a 3-1 win and left his side in freefall.
After a fine start to the season, Leeds have unraveled. A seven-match unbeaten run was ended by Millwall in September and Christiansen has now overseen a run of seven defeats in nine games since.
Thanks in part to Ollie Watkins’ missed penalty, Leeds somehow escaped from a dire first-half performance just one goal down, from Neal Maupay, and equalised through Ezgjan Alioski in a much-improved second half. However, Yoann Barbet’s free-kick in the 85th minute and Ryan Woods’ stoppage-time strike put Christiansen in a desperate position.
Neal Maupay heads home after Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan inexplicably dropped a cross
Leeds defender Gaetano Berardi flies into a sliding challenge on Brentford’s Josh Clarke
Brentford (4-2-3-1): Bentley; Clarke, Egan, Bjelland (Mepham 45), Barbet; Yennaris, Wood; Josefzoon, Sawyers (Mokotjo 73), Watkins; Maupay (Vibe 80)
Subs not used: MacLeod, MacEachran, Daniels, Canos
Leeds (4-3-2-1): Lonergan; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips, O’Kane (Hernandez 45), Vieira; Alioski (Grot 80), Saiz; Lasogga (Roofe 45)
Subs not used: Wiedwald, Dallas, Sacko, Shaughnessy
‘I’m disappointed,’ Christiansen said. ‘There’s only one way up: continue working hard. If we don’t have faith, if we don’t believe, we can throw everything away. We are fighters.
‘The players aren’t fighting for me. They’re fighting for themselves. I’ll be here for the next game.’
Leeds were listless at Griffin Park in the first half, disjointed going forward and unpicked at the back by Brentford’s vibrant wide play.
Christiansen will take much of the blame for the way Leeds started the game, but even he cannot claim responsibility for Brentford’s opening goal.
Andy Lonergan looked to have Barbet’s looping cross from the left in his grasp, but somehow the ball slipped out of his hands mid-jump before it was gleefully headed in by Maupay.
If the mistake was unexpected, the goal itself was not. Through Watkins’ driving runs on the left and the probing passing of midfielder Woods, Brentford were in dominant form.
Ollie Watkins fired over from the spot after Maupay was brought down by Pontus Jansson
Watkins is consoled by Maupay after missing a golden chance to double Brenford’s lead
Ronaldo Vieira jostles for positioning with Brentford’s Nico Yennaris on Saturday evening
Brentford winger Florian Jozefzoon signals during the Championship clash at Griffin Park
‘We have to recognise the first half was very bad,’ Christiansen continued. ‘We did not want to have the ball. We need to have the confidence to have the ball and ask for the ball.’
It was Woods’ arcing pass from inside his own half that set Florian Jozefzoon behind Leeds’ defence for the first chance of the match, but the Dutch winger could only curl over.
Watkins was the first to test Lonergan, cutting on to his right foot to draw a fine save with a curling effort. Pontus Jansson was strong to head away the resulting corner and give Leeds a chance to counter, which ended in Alioski’s tame effort straight at Daniel Bentley.
Any momentum Leeds had built up was ended by Lonergan’s error and Brentford were soon pushing for a second. Watkins was again the architect: the Football League’s young player of the year drove at Leeds’ stretched defence, squared up Jansson before a slipping a ball behind the big centre back’s blindside. Jansson spun, stretched and missed, bringing down Maupay for a penalty.
Watkins stepped up with an air of assuredness, but leaned back and fired the ball over the crossbar. It was the only low point in a fine display from Watkins and manager Dean Smith praised the 21-year-old.
The winger celebrates after equalising from Daniel Bentley’s error on Saturday night
Alioski thought he’d salvaged a point for away side at Griffin Park but they were later undone
‘His use of the ball was really good,’ Smith said. ‘We played through him in the first half and the defensive side of his game has improved immensely.’
Christiansen rung the changes at half-time, replacing Stuart O’Kane and Pierre-Michel Lasogga with Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, and Leeds emerged with far more purpose.
Again, however, it was an error that proved decisive, as Bentley missed a looping cross to allow Alioski to head over two defenders and level the scores.
‘Our keeper helped them out, their keeper helped us out,’ Smith said. ‘I haven’t spoken to Bentley yet, but it will be a game remembered by goalkeepers’ mistakes.’
Through the driving force of Ronaldo Vieira in midfield, Leeds pushed for a winner, but disaster struck for Christiansen when Barbet’s cross from a free-kick on the right drifted past everyone and into the net.
Christiansen and his side looked stunned, and their miserable night was sealed when the impressive Woods steered home from 20 yards.