Walker-Peters snatches point for Southampton to deny Leeds

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

Southampton produced a rousing fightback, with two goals in the final 20 minutes earning a draw against Leeds, to take some heat off Ralph Hasenhüttl.

Two goals from Rodrigo put Leeds on course for victory but the introduction of Joe Aribo inspired Southampton and his goal, coupled with Kyle Walker-Peters’s slick finish, lifted the mood of the home fans.

Hasenhüttl’s future has been the subject of speculation already this season but the Austrian was relieved to quieten the doubters. The Southampton manager said: “Sorry we destroyed a few headlines that were already written. The team gave the answer. We had a tough week but we showed a good reaction.

“Although we had very tough temperatures, the team were flying at the end and we even had a chance to win it. It’s a good comeback and the team gave the answer today.”

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The Leeds defender Diego Llorente’s last-ditch tackle, midway through the first half, prevented Stuart Armstrong bearing down on goal. Llorente was made to sweat even more, in the sweltering heat, but a VAR check for a possible red card was rightly dismissed.

Patrick Bamford’s latest injury curse struck again with the unfortunate Leeds striker forced off after 28 minutes. Jesse Marsch eased supporters’ fears by playing down the extent of his injury.

“Patrick is not bad,” he said. “He felt a little tightness in his abductor. I’ve challenged him to be honest if he’s not 100%. He made the right decision to come off.”

Dan James replaced Bamford and the former Manchester United attacker was handed an immediate chance to score – after being played through by Jack Harrison – but his shot was brilliantly saved by Gavin Bazunu on his home debut for Southampton. Leeds kept the pressure on but Rasmus Kristensen could not get any power on his header which was easily held by Bazunu.

Rodrigo opens the scoring for Leeds.
Rodrigo opens the scoring for Leeds. Photograph: James Marsh/REX/Shutterstock

Brenden Aaronson was finding pockets of space for Leeds to attack but the American summer signing should have done better after blasting his shot over the bar.

Leeds made the perfect start to the second half with the breakthrough, after Harrison’s cross was turned in with a neat flick from close range by Rodrigo after less than a minute on the clock.

It got even better for Leeds with Rodrigo nodding in his third goal of the season, after a flicked header from Pascal Struijk, to double their lead. The Spanish forward is already halfway towards his total of six goals, scored during the entire last campaign.

His goal increased the chuntering among agitated Southampton fans. Their team suffered a poor end to last season, which concluded with four successive defeats, and a heavy opening loss at Tottenham last week.

Hasenhüttl threw on the summer recruit Joe Aribo and Adam Armstrong in a bid to inject some positivity and it had the desired effect. Southampton worked the ball out to Armstrong and he set up Aribo, with the former Rangers midfielder rounding Illan Meslier and firing past several defenders to give the hosts hope.

Aribo’s introduction, aside from his goal, sparked Southampton into life and suddenly Leeds seemed keen to slow the game down.

But Southampton’s momentum was too much for their opponents to handle and the equaliser arrived in the 81st minute. Sékou Mara, making a significant impact on his debut from off the bench, played an incisive pass through to Walker-Peters and he drilled the ball past Meslier to the delight of the home fans.

Leeds were rattled and Mara stung the fingertips of Meslier as Southampton pushed for an unlikely winner.

Marsch steered Leeds to safety after a dramatic final day of last season at Brentford but his hopes are much higher now despite their late setback.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “It’s a terrible feeling to play so well and walk away with what feels less than one point.

“When you remove the emotion then you see clearly we’re making progress as a team.”