Few Leeds United victories have ever been more delightfully received.
When 19-year-old substitute Joe Gelhardt sent off a dramatic winner in the Kop end in the fourth minute of added playing time against Norwich on Sunday, the entire Leeds bench sprinted onto the pitch to celebrate with him.
They were quickly bullied by ecstatic supporters in the West Stand while they were head coach Jesse Marsch was no less animated pitchside.
Football director Victor Orta was in tears, overwhelmed by the extent of what a victory will do to Leeds’ hopes of Premier League survival.
Som Kaiser Chiefs’ I Predict A Riot was blown off the tannoy full time, over 30,000 delirious Leeds fans joined.
Elland Road’s raw fervor, the unifying sense of unity, is still one of the most impressive sights and sounds in the English game.
“I feel like I played 96 minutes,” said an emotionally drained Marsch after an incredible final in which Gelhardt scored moments after Norwich had equalized.
“On my deathbed, I want to reflect on this day because it was a special moment for all of us.
“I had heard a lot about the magic of Elland Road and it was definitely an incredible experience.
“My family was here for the first time today and I continue to learn all about the people, the city and the club, and how to help it become a version of football that I think can be really successful Moving forward.
“But these three points are, of course, incredibly valuable.”
Leeds’ next five games
- Wolves (a) – Friday, March 18th
- Southampton (h) – Saturday, April 2nd
- Watford (a) – Saturday, April 9th
- Chelsea (h) – Saturday 16 April
- Crystal Palace (a) – Saturday, April 23rd
After a lousy 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa three days earlier – a club record-breaking sixth league defeat in a row – there was no doubt about the importance of Norwich’s visit.
It was considered a relegation contest, which was only a small exaggeration, but overall, Leeds deserved to win a tense meeting.
They could have been ahead 4-0 at the break, but only had Rodrigo’s 14th minute line to show for their efforts.
A hopeful shot up the pitch kindly fell in the way of the Spanish striker, whose well-struck right-footed shot deflected by Canary captain Ben Gibson.
The chances continued to spread for Leeds, with Raphinha firing Patrick Bamford‘s left wing over the crossbar and Pascal Struijk blasted wide from close range.
Bamford, who started his first start in almost six months after an injury, then denied a good chance at a moment’s break.
With 12 minutes left, Milot Rashica went down in the field during the challenge from Luke Ayling. The penalty was overturned when replays showed the Norwich player had stood on Ayling’s legs.
Nevertheless, Norwich equalized in the first minute of extra time when Teemu Pukki scored from the right and Kenny McLean shot home.
Marsch’s team, however, were undeniable, and in the dying minutes, Gelhardt’s flicking header found the excellent Raphinha, who rounded Tim Krul before getting the teenager to shoot in an empty goal.
“It was an incredible feeling when I saw it hit the net. It was crazy, “Gelhardt said.
Marsch, who picked up his first win as Leeds boss and whose side now face the Wolves on Friday, could certainly vouch for it.