Jesse Marsch says the stress of life as Leeds manager is so intense that, at times, he hates his job. Not to be outdone, David Moyes claims to have “loathed every minute” at the helm of West Ham in recent weeks.
Both men say there are also times when they love their positions but this was a night when they had to settle for reasonable contentment in the form of a messy yet gloriously feisty draw which, in ending the visitors’ run of five consecutive league defeats, left Marsch frustrated.
With goal difference separating his side from the bottom three, Moyes’s job security remains gossamer thin and he had reason to be relieved his opposite number had not started Jack Harrison, a transformative second-half substitute.
“It was a step in the right direction,” said West Ham’s manager. “I was very pleased with our resilience after going 1-0 down. It was a good result but a missed opportunity. We should have had more control – and won.” Moyes also paid a heartfelt tribute to David Gold, West Ham’s co-chairman who died on Wednesday. Leeds placed a bouquet of flowers on the empty seat he occupied on visits here.
Another David, the one patrolling Elland Road’s away technical area, has become overly familiar with defeat of late yet Moyes clearly sensed opportunity against a defence so porous relegation remains a real peril. Perhaps this mutual fear of a Championship future explains why the two managers greeted each other unusually warmly, exchanging hugs, handshakes and words before kick-off.
Marsch – who confirmed that a tearful Mateusz Klich, a second-half substitute, is leaving for MLS – hopes Max Wöber will prove the answer to his problems but the £10m left sided Austria defender arrived from Red Bull Salzburg too late for involvement.
As Wöber was paraded on the pitch before kick-off he insulated himself from the West Yorkshire chill by zipping his club anorak up to the neck but Declan Rice had no protection when an, albeit accidental, kick in the face from Rodrigo left West Ham’s England midfielder requiring treatment on a cut ear.
Rodrigo was subsequently booked and could count himself slightly fortunate not to have been sent off for an unintentional but potentially damaging challenge.
At that point both teams seemed a bit short on identity. The lack of discernible style dictated there were periods when things became so incoherently helter-skelter that it all seemed a giant exercise in improvisation.
Everything changed when Wilfried Gnonto reminded us why he scored his first senior goal for Italy at the age of 18 and Crysencio Summerville showed off the class that has made him a Netherlands Under-21 winger.
Gnonto, now 19, reduced Lukasz Fabianski to helplessness courtesy of a sublime, left footed, finish after meeting Rodrigo’s flick and playing a one-two with Summerville. The latter’s contribution, the most subtle of disguised chipped passes, thoroughly confounded Moyes’s rearguard.
Briefly, West Ham, with Thilo Kehrer struggling in defence, seemed set to surrender but then Illan Meslier raced well out of his area to clear, allowing Vladimir Coufal to try his luck from 45 yards. Moyes looked suitably resigned as the ball eventually landed tamely on the roof of the net.
When Pascal Struijk tripped Jarrod Bowen in the area, things finally looked up for the Scot as, thanks to VAR, a penalty was awarded . Although Lucas Paquetá’s elaborate run up did not convince his spot kick – expertly lifted into the top corner – defied Meslier and parity was restored.
Forty three seconds into the second half the previously anonymous Italian striker Gianluca Scamacca intercepted Brenden Aaronson’s slapdash attempted pass as he took a swivelling, steadying touch before sending a low shot curving in off a post. With a swipe of a boot from the edge of the area West Ham were ahead. As a forlorn Marsch stared up at the sky, Scamacca celebrated making the very most of one of Leeds’s alarmingly frequent concessions of possession.
“I’m very frustrated and confused that it took so long for my players to play to their potential,” said Marsch. “The first half wasn’t good enough, I have to learn how to push the right buttons.”
With boos now audible, Coufal and Summerville became embroiled in an unpleasant altercation and heavy rain began cascading down.
Rodrigo lifted the mood by switching the soundtrack to “Marching on Together” courtesy of a finely calibrated equaliser, beautifully struck from 20 yards after his collection of Harrison’s pass. It was his 10th goal of the season and a vindication of Marsch’s decision to replace Aaronson with the immensely impressive Harrison.
Indeed but for Fabianski’s wonderful save from Rodrigo’s header at the death the Leeds manager might have ended the evening back in love with his job.