If avoiding relegation is all about rolling up your sleeves and fighting for everything, then, on that evidence, Leeds should pretty much get there.
A second consecutive clean sheet on the road earned Jesse Marsch’s side a point that could prove invaluable. It certainly wasn’t pretty on a night when tempers were unraveling on both sides, although Crystal Palace having now come even closer to approving their Premier League status for another season, Patrick Vieira had no no reason to complain other than maybe the below-by performance of the referee.
Sixteen days had passed since Leeds beat Watford in their last game, but Burnley’s resurgence since Sean Dyche’s sacking meant this was their chance to avoid being dragged into the relegation battle. Marsch was able to name Kalvin Phillips in his starting line-up for the first time, with the England midfielder making a long-awaited return after a hamstring injury he suffered in December.
Phillips’ absence for so long has not helped Leeds’ predicament, although Marsch’s return to 11 points in seven games – and now five games unbeaten – since taking over from Marcelo Bielsa in late February relieved some of the pressure. Leeds established a five-point cushion on Everton going into the final stretch of the season, despite having played one more game.
“The result is important – every point is important and brings us closer to our ultimate goal,” admitted Marsch, the former RB Leipzig manager, who described his next opponent Manchester City as the best team in the world to have faced them more early this season into the Champions League group stages. “Kalvin’s return can really help us.”
The American shared a warm hug with Vieira before kick-off after locking horns with the Palace manager while in charge of New York Red Bulls and New York City FC respectively in MLS, although he probably didn’t mention that the last two meetings were over. in 4-0 wins for Marsch. Palace seemed determined to make amends for a disappointing run of three defeats, including the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea after scoring seven unanswered goals past Arsenal and Everton in their last two matches here.
Jean-Philippe Mateta got his first glimpse after running on a long pass but his lob off Illan Meslier lacked power, while a stretch Diego Llorente did just enough to deny the Frenchman following a teasing cross from Jordan Ayew.
While the traveling supporters expressed their frustration at the decision to schedule this game on a night when there were no trains from London to Yorkshire, there was little to excite them on the pitch until to Liam Cooper’s head from a Jack Harrison corner that went straight. in the arms of Vicente Guaita in the 27th minute.
Pitted against a potential rival for a place in England’s World Cup squad in the incessant Conor Gallagher, Phillips was one of three Leeds players to avoid being cautioned by referee Darren England , for fouls on Wilfried Zaha in the first half – decisions that did not please the Ivorian striker and the home fans.
Luke Ayling was particularly lucky to escape after two fouls against him and some of Zaha’s frustration seemed to boil over when he appeared to raise his hands towards Raphinha, although the Brazilian certainly took the opportunity to throw to the ground and there was no punishment. Joachim Andersen eventually became the first player to be shown a yellow card just before half-time as England walked off the pitch to boos from Palace supporters.
“Wilf showed a lot of maturity to keep his cool,” admitted Vieira, who felt his side deserved to take all three points. “The only thing missing was a goal.” His side have not conceded a first-half goal at home since losing to Liverpool on January 23, but Palace nearly took a nap on the restart as Leeds went on the attack.
The hosts certainly looked more likely to snatch victory once France Under-21 striker Michael Olise was brought in late on the bench, with Gallagher’s appeals for a penalty against Llorente correctly dismissed by VAR. The Spaniard was booked for bringing Zaha back before the Palace striker forced Meslier into a double save with his legs at the near post, while the Frenchman held his ground again when Gallagher was set up by a brilliant skill from Olise to ensure Leeds are gone. south London feeling pretty self-satisfied.