Goals from Neal Maupay and Sergi Canos proved enough as Brentford were comfortable 2-0 winners against a disappointing Leeds side at Griffin Park, denting the visitors’ automatic promotion hopes after other Championship results on Easter Monday.
Norwich missed the chance to confirm their status as Championship winners after a 2-2 draw away at Stoke in one of the day’s 3pm kick-offs, while second-placed Sheffield United were 3-0 away winners over Hull.
With the chance to match Sheffield Utd (85 pts) with an away win in west London, the focus was firmly on Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds. After all, they lost 2-1 on Friday against relegation-threatened Wigan and needed a response, not least being the league’s solely televised fixture on Sky.
Bamford’s pen appeal denied, Alioski hobbles off early
They started purposefully, fashioning a few promising half-chances between forwards Tyler Roberts and Patrick Bamford – though the latter was left visibly bemused after seeing his penalty appeal waved away by referee Keith Stroud.
Replays showed there was clear contact by centre-back Julian Jeanvier on him in the box and although Bamford probably should have shot in the moments beforehand, Leeds had a spot-kick wrongfully denied.
To make matters worse, Bielsa was forced into an early change beforehand as creative midfielder Ezgjan Alioski sustained a muscle injury and couldn’t continue after just ten minutes. Replaced by Stuart Dallas, the frustration was a sign of foreshadowing.
Bamford came close in the early exchanges with a shot which flashed narrowly wide, before miscontrolling an excellent Pablo Hernandez pass. Had he been awarded the penalty, he could’ve easily netted a first-half hat-trick for the visitors.
Bees counter, take late first-half lead
Instead, Brentford’s counter-attacking brilliance and the individual quality of Sergi Canos came to the fore as they snatched a slender lead before the interval.
Having already left Luke Ayling for dead on a handful of occasions, combining well with Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins, he forced Kiko Casilla into a diving save before teeing up Maupay in the build-up to their opener.
The goal itself stemmed from seemingly nothing, but was a ruthless finish from Brentford’s prolific Frenchman. Canos’ control and excellent through pass split the visitors’ defence completely, with Maupay on hand to benefit – curling it beyond an onrushing Casilla with his backline in no man’s land and nowhere to be seen.
With a one-goal deficit to overturn and having squandered chances, Leeds knew what was at stake. They couldn’t afford any less than a win and responded with high intensity and more opportunities to resume the match’s action.
Dallas, Bamford and Pablo Hernandez all had attempts on goal before Bielsa made his second change of the game as Kemar Roofe replaced an ineffective Roberts.
Just two minutes later, Brentford had doubled their lead and this time it was Canos wheeling away to celebrate. His intelligent attacking run was spotted by Maupay, before he showed composure to coolly dink the ball over Casilla from close-range.
Leeds, despite their best efforts, were clearly struggling. It’s been a frustrating week for them and with time running out on this occasion, they lacked the invention to try rescuing an unfavourable situation.
The result means Norwich and Sheffield United are poised for automatic promotion, while Leeds will need a miracle to avoid the unpredictability of the playoffs next month.