Struijk strike earns draw with Brighton to keep Leeds’ survival hopes alive

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Pascal Struijk’s dramatic late equaliser moved Leeds United out of the Premier League relegation zone at the expense of Burnley and earned Jesse Marsch’s side a potentially priceless point in their fight for survival against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Danny Welbeck’s first-half strike looked as though it would consign Leeds to a fourth consecutive league defeat and leave the hosts facing the prospect of going into their final game of the season at Brentford next Sunday needing a mathematical miracle to survive if Burnley defeated Aston Villa in their remaining game in hand on Thursday.

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But just as defeat seemed inevitable for the hosts, Struijk’s header from Joe Gelhardt’s cross changed the entire dynamic of the final week, with Burnley now needing to avoid defeat on Thursday to keep their survival hopes in their own hands on the final day of the season.

The scenes when Struijk equalised were a far cry from just a few minutes earlier. With Leeds appearing to be on their way to another defeat, the home supporters launched into a rendition of Marcelo Bielsa’s name before turning their ire on the board for their decision to sack Bielsa in February and appoint Marsch.

Illan Meslier and Diego Llorente of Leeds United look on as Danny Welbeck scores Brighton’s first goal during the Premier League match at Elland Road on 15 May, 2022.
Danny Welbeck scores past Illan Meslier to give Brighton a first half lead. Photograph: George Wood/Getty Images

For large periods of an absorbing afternoon in West Yorkshire it looked as though the heroics of the Brighton goalkeeper, Robert Sánchez, would pile more misery on Leeds too. After Welbeck’s clever chip put the Seagulls into a deserved lead, Leeds began to improve as half-time approached, with only a remarkable save from Sánchez to deny Mateusz Klich’s long-range strike keeping Brighton ahead at the interval.

Prior to that, a superb last-ditch tackle from Robin Koch prevented Leandro Trossard from doubling Brighton’s lead but after the break, Leeds were the stronger of the two sides. Sánchez was on hand again to prevent Raphinha’s free-kick from finding the top corner before Klich was again denied by Sánchez shortly after Raphinha had skewed another opportunity.

But just as it looked as though Leeds’ momentum had faded and they were headed for yet another defeat, Gelhardt scrambled to keep the ball alive in the Brighton box before chipping over Sánchez and allowing Struijk to send Elland Road into pandemonium with the goal that, if things pan out a certain way over the next seven days, could keep Leeds in the Premier League.

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