Robin Sainty: City's performance at Leeds sums up our season

Brandon Williams of Norwich City following the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds

Brandon Williams should have done better in trying to prevent grabbing a dramatic late winner - Credit: Matt Wilkinson/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City may have been drinking in the last chance saloon at Leeds, but they were up against a team whose confidence was at rock bottom and possessed a defence that was even leakier than their own. 

Unfortunately, what transpired perfectly encapsulated all the things that have driven fans to distraction over the course of an utterly soul-destroying season. 

At no point did City look up for the challenge, with possession regularly squandered either through sloppy passing or players dribbling into blind alleys, and Teemu Pukki once again starved of any sort of service. 

With no meaningful goal threat from the visitors, Leeds visibly grew in confidence and it was no real surprise when they went ahead, and had they been sharper in front of goal the game would have been decided well before their understandable nervousness as full-time approached allowed City to build a modicum of pressure and snatch an equaliser that, in all honesty, they barely deserved. 

A draw wouldn’t have been a disaster and would have kept City’s season alive a bit longer, but this side’s ability to shoot itself in the foot is quite remarkable. 

A hopeful punt downfield from the Leeds keeper should have been dealt with by Ben Gibson, and when he failed to do so, by Brandon Williams, who inexplicably went with his wrong foot to try to nick the ball when football sense dictated that he had to take man and ball in whichever order he could. If one goal could sum up the sheer ineptitude and naivety of some of City’s defending this season that was surely it. 

Just to rub salt into the wounds there was also another example of the utter inconsistency of how VAR is applied while the game still stood at 0-0. 

Match referee Stuart Atwell during the Premier League match at Elland Road, LeedsPicture by Matt W

Match referee Stuart Attwell during City's game at Leeds - Credit: Matt Wilkinson/Focus Images Ltd

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The fact that Luke Ayling was off his feet and out of control as his studs made contact halfway up Milot Rashica’s shin was clear enough in real time, so why with the benefit of slow motion replays it wasn’t changed from the yellow brandished by the pusillanimous Stuart Attwell, who seemed reluctant to do anything to stamp out Leeds’s persistent fouling, to the red it deserved is beyond me. 

Imagine if the victim had been Mo Salah or Cristiano Ronaldo instead of a player from the league’s basement club. I think we all know the answer to that. 

I’m not suggesting that VAR cost City the match, but it’s blindingly obvious that the fact that its application varies from game to game is ruining football. 

VAR is one of many things that I won’t miss next season, along with the ridiculous sense of entitlement of the top clubs as exemplified by Chelsea trying to get their FA Cup match at Middlesbrough played behind closed doors and having the temerity to use “sporting integrity” as a justification. 

The sheer hypocrisy is remarkable, given that after the Super League debacle there was a proposal by the Premier League to introduce an ‘Owners Charter’. This would have been an addition to the rule book that required all club owners to sign up to core principles based around issues like integrity, custodianship and sporting merit. 

Chelsea, along with the rest of the Big Six have, as reported by The Times, blocked this because when Uefa restructures the European competitions some of the places in the Champions League could be offered to teams based not on their actual performance in the Premier League but on their historic performances in Europe. 

In other words, the Big Six want the right to take a European place even if their final league position doesn’t justify them doing so on merit, so that if, for example, Wolves finished in a European qualifying spot they could be leapfrogged by a Big Six club that finished in a lower position.  

That’s how much Chelsea and their ilk care about “sporting integrity”.