Sergi Canos inspired Brentford to an impressive victory at Griffin Park that leaves Leeds with a huge mountain to climb in the fight for automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Neal Maupay struck his 27th goal of the season on the stroke of half-time, before the impressive Canos doubled their lead shortly after the hour mark.
The Whites threw everything at Brentford as they desperately searched for something from the game, but despite a lively first-half performance from Patrick Bamford, they rarely tested Luke Daniels.
Leeds’s seventh consecutive defeat on an Easter Monday leaves them three points behind Sheffield United with just two games remaining, while the Bees stay 15th.Embed from Getty Images
Neil Maupay’s first half strike was the Frenchman’s 27th of the season and put Brentford in a commanding decision.
After the Blades comprehensively beat Hull 3-0 earlier in the day, all of the pressure in the race for promotion rested on the shoulders of the visitors.
And it was Leeds who started the stronger of the two sides, recording the game’s first shot on goal in the second minute. Good inter-play between Tyler Roberts and Luke Ayling opened up some space in the box for Patrick Bamford, but the in-form striker couldn’t find the target.
Daniels was called into action moments later, however. A crunching tackle by Leeds skipper Liam Cooper on halfway saw Leeds break and a slick through-ball by Bamford set Roberts up one-on-one, but the Bees stopper did well to deny the Wales international from close range.
Following a nervy opening period, the hosts gradually worked their way into the game. A vital, last-ditch block from Ayling was required to deny Canos after a clever pass from Ollie Watkins had given the Spaniard an eye on Kiko Casilla’s goal.
After former Brentford man Stuart Dallas came on for the injured Ezgjan Alioski in the 12th minute, the home side were again on the attack a minute later. A brave tackle from Cooper fed the ball to Canos, but his wild effort sailed over the bar.
Leeds were denied a seemingly-stonewall penalty in the 17th minute when Julian Jeanvier clumsily felled Bamford, but, to Leeds’s amazement, referee Keith Stroud waved away the away side’s passionate appeals.Embed from Getty Images
Patrick Bamford was lively in the first half and had a penalty shout waved away.
The incident seemed to spur on the Whites, though, and the quick pressing and high energy levels that Leeds have become so well known for under Marcelo Bielsa were in full flow as the game headed towards half-time.
Brentford provided a timely reminder of the threat they posed, however, when Canos wormed his way past Ayling and set up Rico Henry from eight yards, but the youngster’s tame effort was deflected away by Pontus Jansson for a corner.
The home side continued to press and Casilla was called into action in the 39th minute, making a fine save to keep the game goalless. Again, Ayling was given the run-around by Canos, but the Brentford star’s fellow countryman stretched at full-length to deny the Bees attacker with his first proper stop of the game.
But pressure finally told less than a minute before the break as Maupay found the net to give the hosts the lead. Livewire Canos slipped the ball between the Leeds centre-halves and the Bees top-scorer emphatically drilled the ball past the oncoming Casilla to make it 1-0, much to the dismay of the typically-vociferous travelling Leeds fans.
Tyler Roberts had a great chance to level the game seconds after the restart as he found himself through on goal after a mix-up in the Brentford defence. But, he nervously pulled his effort wide across Daniels’s goal to keep the score at 1-0, before Stroud brought an entertaining first half to a close.Embed from Getty Images
Tyler Roberts had two great chances to score for Leeds in the first half.
Leeds got the second period underway and were immediately on the attack, knowing that they had to rescue something from the game to keep their automatic promotion dream alive. Dallas picked up the ball midway in the Brentford half and drove towards goal, forcing a good save from Daniels just 30 seconds into the second half.
The away side – desperate for an equaliser – were now in full control of possession and Bamford went close to making it 1-1 in the 56th minute. A great cross-field ball from Pablo Hernandez found Roberts in space, but his cross was just too close to Daniels as Bamford looked to latch on to the loose ball.
Kemar Roofe came on to replace Roberts a minute later, with Leeds piling everyone forward with just over half-an-hour remaining.
But the Whites were caught out in defence as Brentford went up the other end and the impressive Canos made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute. Watkins rode his luck on the left flank to find Maupay, whose clever flick to the Spaniard was neatly finished off to double the home side’s advantage.Embed from Getty Images
Sergi Canos capped a brilliant performance with a well-taken goal in the second half.
Brentford almost made it 3-0 moments later, as Maupay tried an audacious overhead kick that whistled over the top of the crossbar.
With Leeds going hammer and tooth at one end, the hosts were looking to exploit the exposed defence and again could’ve extended their lead in the 71st minute. Canos did superbly to beat Cooper, but Casilla foiled him at the last to deny him his second of the game.
With 11 minutes remaining, Brentford had their own penalty appeal waved away as Stroud opted to book Watkins for diving following a challenge from Adam Forshaw.
Leeds continued to attack as the game drew to a close, but the Bees’s backline held firm to secure a convincing win against one of the league’s strongest sides.
Brentford Head Coach, Thomas Frank:
“I’m delighted of course. It was a very good performance and a well-deserved win.
“We knew pressing them high could create opportunities and the way we defended was bang on.”
Leeds United Head Coach, Marcelo Bielsa:
“I am very sad, it’s going to be very difficult [to finish in the top two].
“Today looks like many games we’ve played this year – we didn’t take advantage of the positive moments that could’ve made the difference. At the beginning of both halves we could’ve scored goals and in the moments we dominated less they dominated us and scored goals.”
On whether automatic promotion is out of reach:
“As long as maths says something we will be following this, but we know that our opportunity was in these last two games.
“When something important is at stake there is pressure of course but if there’s something I could say for sure it’s that this team was never affected. [Over the season] this team has hidden many limits with a huge effort with personality. By being demanding each player has played close to their maximum.”
Featured photograph/Peter White