Daily Mail

Raphinha raises the roof with spot kick at death

- DAVID COVERDALE at Elland Road

THEY needed 93 minutes and a helping hand from an opposition player and VAR. But Leeds finally found a way to win at Elland Road last night — just when they needed it most.

It looked for all money that Marcelo Bielsa’s struggling side would have to settle for a second successive stalemate, which would have done little to ease the growing nerves around West Yorkshire.

But from an injury-time corner, Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi stuck out a hand to block Liam Cooper’s header.

And after referee Kevin Friend had consulted his pitchside monitor and then pointed to the spot, Raphinha stuck his penalty away to give Leeds just their second home win of the season — and blow the Elland Road roof off.

‘There is relief and we can breathe again,’ admitted boss Bielsa, whose side climbed to 15th and, crucially, are five points clear of the bottom three.

‘It was a victory which was very necessary. We really hoped we could win this game because the results we’d been getting weren’t good enough.

‘To have a penalty in the last minute in such an important game is not easy. Raphinha has been very important and to score that goal he needed a lot of character, personalit­y and courage. He got us the three points.’

Match-winner Raphinha has been Leeds’ sole shining light and this goal, his sixth of the campaign, may well have transforme­d the entire narrative of their season.

Coming into this one, the chatter was much more negative, and questions were even being asked about Bielsa’s relationsh­ip with his best player Kalvin Phillips.

The England midfielder had started the previous two games at centre half and was hooked at half-time in last Saturday’s stalemate at Brighton. But Bielsa restored Phillips to his favoured position last night and it promptly paid off.

‘I saw a lot of things on social media and TV that me and the manager had fallen out. It’s never been the case and I wanted to put that to bed,’ said Phillips afterwards. ‘I respect him so much. I will never fall out with him. I will play any position the manager asks me.’

Not that Bielsa would think

about switching his star man again after this.

It was Phillips who got the crowd going from the start with a crunching tackle on Conor Gallagher. And he created one of his side’s best efforts of the first half when he won the ball back in the final third, drove into the box and fired just over.

Still, chances were at a premium for both sides, who reached the break without a shot on target. Bielsa had seen enough and made two changes at the break, introducin­g Rodrigo, who should have broken the deadlock but shot wide under pressure from keeper Vicente Guaita.

Palace boss Patrick Vieira waited longer before he shuffled his pack, bringing on Christian Benteke with 22 minutes to go.

The striker, whose record for Premier League goals on a Tuesday is third only to that of Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney — ought to have scored when Wilfried Zaha picked him out for a free header at the back post.

Then he forced the stranded Illan Meslier into a scrambled save as he stabbed a shot towards goal from Jordan Ayew’s raking pass.

But Palace and Benteke were made to pay for those misses when, in added time, referee Friend eventually awarded a penalty for the home side — with Raphinha making no mistake.

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 ?? REUTERS ?? Late show: Raphinha tucks the ball past Guaita
REUTERS Late show: Raphinha tucks the ball past Guaita
 ?? REUTERS ?? Joy: Raphinha is mobbed after his vital winner
REUTERS Joy: Raphinha is mobbed after his vital winner

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