Leeds were on the right end of a 4-3 scoreline this time, yet enjoyable as it has been to see seven goals scored in two games, exactly the same number have been conceded and Marcelo Bielsa admitted he has concerns about his defence. Though apparently dead and buried at one point Fulham closer to taking something from this game than they had any right to after conceding four times in the first hour.
“We will have to wait for a few more games before we can make firm conclusions,” Bielsa said. “We attacked quite well but didn’t finish our chances, then we had 10 minutes in the second half where we made mistakes.
“Our central defenders could not cope with the Fulham No 9 [Aleksandar Mitrovic], he was the one causing all the danger. We are worried about the number of goals we are conceding.”
So is Scott Parker. “You can’t concede that many and hope to get something out of the game,” the Fulham manager said. “We showed character in coming back, but we left ourselves too much to do.”
These promoted sides lost on the opening weekend, though Leeds gave the better account of themselves, and the impression Fulham may be destined for a swift return to the Championship was strengthened when they went behind from a set piece after five minutes.
Harrison Reed’s attempt to clear a Kalvin Phillips corner was indecisive, to say the least, and the ball flew straight to an unmarked Hélder Costa at the far post, who controlled with an elegant first touch and crashed a left-foot shot into the roof of the net with his second.
If that was exactly the start Leeds would have been hoping for but they failed to build on it, for there was a surprising lack of creativity and quality on show from either side in the next half hour. Pablo Hernández was missing for Leeds, having injured himself in the warm-up, but that meant Rodrigo was promoted from the bench and the £27m record signing was as anaemic as his teammates before being tactically withdrawn at half-time.
A smart save from Alphonse Areola prevented Robin Koch heading Leeds further ahead from another Phillips corner, but the defender made a costly error just after the half hour to present Fulham with a gift equaliser. Joe Bryan had little chance of reaching a ball he had knocked beyond the Leeds back-line, but Koch had already committed himself to the tackle, clipping the Fulham player and leaving Mitrovic to tuck the penalty under Illan Meslier’s dive.
Fulham could consider themselves fortunate to be back on terms but they were unable make it to the interval without conceding again. If anything the penalty Bryan gave away was even softer than the one he won at the other end. Patrick Bamford was optimistically attempting to reach a cross but Bryan’s nudge in the back was so obvious Anthony Taylor could hardly miss it, allowing Mateusz Klich to restore the home side’s lead from the spot.
Whatever Parker had to say at half-time had little effect, for on the restart Fulham shipped another couple of quick goals. Five minutes into the second half Klich picked out Bamford on the edge of the area with a superbly measured pass, allowing the striker to turn past his man and slide a low shot beyond Areola.
Things looked even worse for the visitors when Bamford took on and beat Denis Odoi down the left for a cut-back that Costa met sweetly close to the penalty spot, yet far from fading at 4-1 down Fulham fought their way back into contention.
Four minutes later, Fulham’s tails were properly up when Mitrovic climbed higher than Liam Cooper to score from Kenny Tete’s cross, and suddenly it was Leeds who were looking nervous and disjointed.
Mitrovic put another header narrowly off target and Neeskens Kebano struck a post before Tyler Roberts’s shot was saved at the other end.
Incredibly, the last 20 minutes passed without either side scoring, which at least made a change.
When the Premier League finally returned to Elland Road after 16 years, it was quite a game.