The Leeds squad marked Halloween with a fancy dress party and for most of a shockingly slapdash first half, Jesse Marsch must have suspected they were still in disguise.
With Marcus Tavernier excelling, Bournemouth were in complete control but a couple of inspired substitutions ensured that thanks to Cyrsencio Summerville’s second winning goal in consecutive games the visitors were consigned to a fourth straight Premier League defeat.
“In our good moments you can see how strong we are,” said Marsch. “Consistency is lacking but the belief is still high. That’s what I love about the team. But the first half wasn’t our best. We dug ourselves a big hole.”
Although Leeds were initially confused by Bournemouth’s habit of segueing between a back four and a back five, they started strongly. Inside the first minute, Summerville, the scorer of last weekend’s winner at Liverpool, accelerated into the area only to be clumsily hacked down by Marcos Senesi. Rodrigo stepped forward to take the penalty and, after a somewhat elaborate run-up, used his left foot to send Mark Travers the wrong way.
Marsch has recently toned down his touchline celebrations but as Rodrigo scored his sixth goal of the season – and third in three games – the American reverted to default mode, punching the air with untrammelled abandon.
Bournemouth possess a rather useful left-winger of their own in Tavernier and it did not take long for their summer signing from Middlesbrough to remind everyone of his talent. When Philip Billing crossed menacingly, Robin Koch could only head the ball as far as Tavernier whose volley was too good for Illan Meslier.
Although Meslier parried Tavernier’s next shot, Billing – who tortured Pascal Struijk throughout –reacted quickest to lash the rebound high into the net.
If Jack Harrison’s relocation from the left to the right wing appeared to have reduced Leeds’s attacking threat it represented the least of their problems. With Koch and Liam Cooper bullied by Dominic Solanke and Kieffer Moore, a static home defence was fortunate not to concede at least three more goals before half time.
“I’m bitterly disappointed,” said Bournemouth manager, Gary O’Neil. “We created loads and loads of chances.”
At least Leeds had Wilfried Gnonto on the bench. The striker signed from FC Zürich in the summer is already a full Italy international at the age of 19 and he replaced Harrison at half-time as Leeds switched to a 4-3-3. Before Gnonto could make an impact a counterattacking Bournemouth scored again. Tavernier all too easily – and not for the first time – dodged Rasmus Kristensen before sending in a low cross which Solanke brilliantly flicked past Meslier.
The rain and the boos cascaded down in almost equal measure. At that point Leeds fans pining for the injured Patrick Bamford could hardly have guessed that, in replacing Marc Roca with Sam Greenwood, Marsch was about to make a transformational substitution. Greenwood is a central midfielder these days but used to be a striker and emphasised the point by wrapping a foot around a bouncing ball and reducing the deficit with a sublimely curving, 20-yard half volley.
Sudddenly Elland Road became reacquainted with the concept of hope. Such faith was justified when Cooper headed Leeds level from a corner. Given that Greenwood took the set piece and that Gnonto – intelligent, incisive and blessed with a wicked change of pace – was petrifying the defence, redemption beckoned for Marsch.
It arrived when Gnonto collected the ball deep inside his own half, hared forward and slipped a beautifully weighted pass into Summerville’s path. Some forwards might have lost their composure at such a pivotal moment but the 21-year-old Dutch winger proved a study in poise and precision, sliding his shot beyond the advancing Travers.
Almost immediately, fireworks began illuminating the skies above Elland Road. “We never have simple wins,” Marsch said. “We don’t make things easy.”