Mara inspired to help Saints fight back from two goals down in Leeds draw

·3-min read
Kyle Walker-Peters scored an equaliser in the final 10 minures (Pic: Stuart Martin)
Kyle Walker-Peters scored an equaliser in the final 10 minures (Pic: Stuart Martin)

KYLE Walker-Peters netted a late equaliser as Saints battled from two goals down at home to Leeds United, to draw 2-2.

Rodrigo had scored twice in the second-half to leave a somber mood inside St Mary’s but Saints hit back after a raft of substitutions, including an electric Sekou Mara.

Joe Aribo got one back after strong work by Adam Armstrong and the 20-year-old Frenchman, Mara, assisted superbly for Walker-Peters to draw level.

The pressure was beginning to crank up on manager Ralph Hasenhuttl due to reports of dissent and distrust from his players in the week, but he stuck with his new shape.

The Austrian made four personnel changes, Che Adams coming in from the start despite rumours linking him to other clubs after he was an unused substitute during the 4-1 defeat at Tottenham.

The visitors, led by Hasenhuttl’s former Red Bull colleague Jesse Marsch, started the game the brighter but the first significant moment could have stung them.

Richard Kitzbichler led a furious bench as they protested a potential red card on Diego Llorente, who chopped Stuart Armstrong last man. It went to a VAR review, but the Spaniard did get the ball.

A second potential foul left Hasenhuttl even more incensed and bemused when Pascal Struijk’s high boot to Adams was once again not punished.

Gavin Bazunu produced a superb save to deny substitute Dan James, while Rasmus Kristensen’s tame attempt at a free back-post header should not have given the Irishman a chance.

Chances were limited throughout the first-half for the home team, with only Stuart Armstrong getting a look at goal before it pin-balled out for a goal kick. The visitors should have scored.

They did not have to wait long after the break, though. Inside one minute, Saints failed to clear their lines and Rodrigo was on hand from an acute angle with a deft finish to Jack Harrison’s square ball.

St Mary’s was at risk of becoming a toxic atmosphere with silly mistakes resembling that of the prior weekend’s defeat at Spurs beginning to creep in.

Rodrigo compiled that. Saints’ trend of conceding headers continued as the forward nodded in Struijk’s goalbound effort to double their lead on the hour mark.

However, St Mary’s got behind their team and were rewarded when Hasenhuttl switched back to his 4-2-2-2 – substitute Armstrong excellently beating his men, driving and squaring for Aribo.

The Nigerian needed a few attempts at it but was eventually able to power through a crowd and give Saints a chance with 20’ to play.

Impressive Premier League debutant Mara lifted everyone off their seat with a clever and incisive through ball to Walker-Peters, who obliged with an across-goal finish to level proceedings.

The youngster had a long-shot of his own saved, while Leeds looked to capitalise on sloppy defending in six minutes of added-time - but neither team did enough to win.

Saints: Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Bednarek (Mara, 69), Salisu, Djenepo (Stephens, 90); Lavia, Ward-Prowse; Elyounoussi (Aribo, 61), S Armstrong (A Armstrong, 61), Adams.

Unused subs: Valery, Lyanco, Diallo, Romeu, McCarthy (g/k).

Booked: Salisu

Leeds United: Meslier; Struijk, Kock, Llorente, Kristensen; Roca (Forshaw, 87), Adams, Aaronson, Harrison (Klich, 84); Bamford (James, 28 (Sinisterra, 84), Rodrigo.

Unused subs: Hjelde, Drameh, Summerville, Greenwood, Klaesson (g/k).

Booked: Harrison, Kristensen, Aaronson.

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