Jesse Marsch was down on the floor but Leeds United were staying up. After a chaotic afternoon of phantom celebrations, west London whispers, VAR interventions, a red card and Brentford finishing the game with nine men, Jack Harrison’s added-time blast cut through the confusion.
Leading 2-1 and with Burnley losing by the same scoreline at home to Newcastle with seconds of the season to play, Leeds and their 1,700 supporters who knew they were safe. Clarity, at last.
Marsch was on his back, grass stains added to the sweat stains of his crisp, white polo shirt. But, by now, the American was well and truly ruffled. His emotions had been pulled in as many directions as his defense have been in recent weeks.
Raphinha celebrates scoring their side’s first goal of the game against Brentford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon
The Brazilian found the net from the penalty spot to break the deadlock in the 56th minute Brentford Community Stadium
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips celebrates after his side bagged a winner deep into injury to end any threat of relegation
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That backline was again the cause of palpitations here but it was those who can quicken the pulse at the other end who kept Leeds alive, Harrison and Raphinha the scorers to end a run of five winless matches which had made them favorites for the drop.
On reflection, Leeds were outside the bottom three from the 20th minute onwards, when Newcastle took the lead at Burnley. It did not always feel like that.
Fast forward to the 80th minute and with Brentford’s Sergi Canos having not long canceled out Raphinha’s earlier penalty, a roar spread around the stadium.
‘Leeds are falling apart, again,’ they chorused from the home end. Burnley had equalised and Leeds were going down. Or so we assumed. Not so. Marsch instructed a member of staff to concentrate on events at Turf Moor — the misinformation from punters was too much to bear.
Jack Harrison claimed the three points for the visiting side when he found the net in the final stages of the match
The Leeds players celebrate in front of their traveling supporters after taking the lead deep into injury time
Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch celebrates after watching his team score their second goal of the match
Brentford (4-3-3): Ray 5; Ajer 5.5, Jansson 6, Sorensen 6 (Baptiste 71, 5), Henry 5.5 (Canos 63, 5); Jensen 6 (Dasliva 58, 6), Janelt 6, Eriksen 7; Mbeumo 7, Toney 6, Wissa 6.5
Manager: Thomas Frank 6
LUFC (4-1-4-1): Meslier 7; Koch 6, Llorente 6, Cooper 5.5, Firpo 6; Phillips 6; Raphinha 8, Rodrigo 6, Greenwood 6.5 (Klich 85), Harrison 7.5; Gelhardt 7 (Struijk 71, 6)
Manager: Jesse Marsch 8
Ref: P Tierney 7
Amid all of this, Brentford had lost two players, a detail unknown to several of the visiting team until frantically informed by their manager. Canos was sent off for two yellow cards inside three minutes — removing his shirt after scoring and then for a foul on Raphinha. Defender Kristoffer Ajer had also retired injured with all substitutes already used.
Knowing Burnley were pushing for the draw that would have relegated Leeds, Marsch screamed at his players to go for the win. Four minutes into stoppage time the ball dropped to Harrison on the edge of the area. The winger’s shot was sweet but still needed a deflection to take it beyond David Raya. After a luckless season, at last a piece of good fortune. Leeds’ alternatives sprinted to join their team-mates in front of the traveling fans, the noise rendering silent the jumbo jets overhead en route to nearby Heathrow.
The full-time whistle was just about audible but there was no mistaking the sound of Marsch’s name emanating from the away end. Marcelo who? Perhaps that backing will send a message to the owners, who would have been having doubts about their bold appointment.
Marsch has tried letters from schoolchildren, quotes from Mother Teresa, JFK and even Eddie Gray, all in an effort to inspire his players. But here, it was the manager’s own confidence from which his team drew strength.
‘I believed we were going to do this — there wasn’t one day I didn’t believe and that’s why I never talked about being in the Championship,’ he said.
‘For me, this business is about belief and exuding it as a leader. I believed in our resolve and character. Everything we’ve been through has made us stronger, not weaker.
‘I’ve heard this a lot about Leeds United in the community and that we always think we have to do it the hard way. Honestly, part of the job of being the manager of this club is to change that mentality, to say we deserve more than that. We have an incredible club. We have an incredible team.’
Sergi Canos levels the scores with a header midway through the second half to put the visiting side under big pressure
Losing the fit-again Patrick Bamford to Covid on Thursday had the feel of fate conspiring against Leeds. He would have been watching from behind the covers of his sick bed early on.
If Leeds’ situation were not so perilous, you may well have laughed at their nervy mishaps. They kicked off and contrived to concede a corner within 10 seconds. Goalkeeper Illan Meslier then ran into captain Liam Cooper when attempting to clear, and the keeper was soon spilling the ball through his own legs before scrambling to recover as it rolled towards his goal.
But Leeds suddenly morphed into a serious outfit. They were in control when a hearty roar from their fans told them that Burnley were losing.
Canos received a yellow card for removing his shirt then picked up another moments later for a foul on Raphinha
Almost immediately Leeds had the ball in the net when Joe Gelhardt finished emphatically but — after a minute of rampant celebration — it was ruled offside. Still, they had the Newcastle goal as consolation.
Leeds eventually went ahead on 56 minutes. Raya gifted the ball to Raphinha and duly brought down the Brazilian when trying to correct his mistake. Raphinha made no such error from the spot. Then, another cheer, Newcastle were 2-0 up. Then, Burnley scored. Then, another cheer — who knows what for this time.
Canos levelled with a smart header but was soon sent off. The dismissal was missed by many given the celebrations at the stands. And where had Ajer gone? It was mayhem. Come the end there was only one thing of which we could be sure, Leeds United were a Premier League club.
Leeds recorded a famous victory at the Brentford Community Stadium to secure their safety in the Premier League
Scroll down to see how it all unfolded with Sportsmail’s live runner.