A bumper Elland Road crowd saw Leeds United battle out a captivating contest with Rafael Benitez’s Everton side as the West Yorkshire outfit welcomed home the return of spectators after a lengthy hiatus of 532 days.
Leeds started off like a house on fire and harnessed the cacophony of noise that rung round Elland Road, however it was the Merseyside outfit who had the first sighting of goal. Summer signing Demarai Gray raced down the flank before firing a teasing ball across the danger area in hope that the talismanic Dominic Calvert-Lewin would latch onto it, but the Sheffield-born striker couldn’t get that crucial touch to prod it beyond Illan Meslier.
As Everton continued to probe, it seemed inevitable they would break the deadlock at a sodden Elland Road; Liam Cooper was adjudged to have brought down Calvert-Lewin inside the penalty box. After a brief look at the VAR monitor, referee Darren England awarded the Toffees a penalty and brandished Liam Cooper with a yellow card. At first glance, it looked that DCL was perhaps milking it but upon reflection the Leeds skipper clumsily hacked Calvert-Lewin down. The Everton striker coolly dispatched from the spot and gave Everton a 1-0 lead as the rain continued to teem down at Elland Road
With Everton dictating proceedings it was imperative that Leeds sought an equaliser, if they were to get off the mark for the season. Leeds were arguably the better side for much of the game and were spurred on by 36,293 ardent Leeds fans at every opportunity- something that, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa admitted, had been sorely missed over the arduous 17 months.
On the stroke of half-time, Leeds got back on level-terms, courtesy of a neat finish from industrious midfielder, Mateusz Klich. Patrick Bamford capitalised on lackadaisical defending from Michael Keane before teeing up the Polish midfielder who dinked the ball beyond Jordan Pickford sparking delirium across the ground.
A rejuvenated Everton side came out the second half quick off the blocks and it wasn’t long before Leeds were pegged back for a second time in the game. Demarai Gray, who was a constant threat for the Leeds backline all game, squeezed in a shot from the tightest of angles which trickled into the Leeds net- to the delight of the 3000 travelling Evertonians.
With the Whites now back in the ascendancy, it was vital they were clinical in front of goal if they were to salvage a point from this tightly contested affair. Raphinha continued his rich vein of goal-scoring form against the Toffees when he notched his third goal against the Goodison Park side. Kalvin Phillips played a swirling ball into the box which found the knee of Liam Cooper who turned provider for Leeds’ Brazilian starlet, with a curling shot leaving Pickford with no chance. Raphinha had been Leeds’ focal point all game as Bamford was at time isolated.
A cracking spectacle in the end with either side able to perhaps snatch a win.