Marsch starts EPL life with a loss, Liverpool closes on City

March 5, 2022 GMT
Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch applauds the fans after the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Leeds United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)
Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch applauds the fans after the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Leeds United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)
Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch applauds the fans after the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Leeds United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)
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Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch applauds the fans after the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Leeds United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)
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Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch applauds the fans after the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Leeds United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

Jesse Marsch gathered his Leeds players in a huddle in the center circle at the end of the match and delivered what appeared to be an impassioned speech.

So what was the American’s message to his new team after his first match as an English Premier League manager?

“It was real simple,” Marsch said, “that this was very positive and a big step in the right direction.”

Problem was, it was still a loss. Another one.

OK, Leeds played surprisingly well in the 1-0 defeat to Leicester on Saturday, considering Marsch has spent only five days with the team after replacing Marcelo Bielsa — a “living legend,” as Marsch described the Argentine — as manager.

Leeds responded well to Marsch’s tweaks in tactics and formation, looking a lot tighter than the team that conceded a record amount of goals in February to effectively push Bielsa to the exit after 3 1/2 years at Elland Road. Leeds’ 19 shots, compared to Leicester’s seven, also told a story.

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That counted for little, though, when Harvey Barnes scored what proved to be the winner in the 67th.

“This is maybe the American in me,” said Marsch, a former U.S. international following in the footsteps of countrymen Bob Bradley and David Wagner in managing in England’s top league, “but I’ve learned that sometimes our sport isn’t the fairest.

“But it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to do what you can in this sport to manage. In a sport like basketball you score a lot more points and usually the better team manages to emerge.”

Not this time for Leeds, which has lost five straight in the league and is only two points above the relegation zone with 11 games left.

That’s the task Marsch is facing in the final 2 1/2 months of the season.

LIVERPOOL WIN

Liverpool just isn’t letting up in its pursuit of Manchester City.

A 1-0 win at home to West Ham — secured by Sadio Mane’s 27th-minute goal — moved second-placed Liverpool to within three points of the leader, which plays a derby match against Manchester United on Sunday.

Lose that and City is within direct range of Liverpool, which will have a game in hand and currently has a superior goal difference of 4. Liverpool has won seven straight in the league.

Chelsea is getting increasingly marooned in third place — 10 points behind Liverpool and six ahead of fourth-placed Man United — after a 4-0 win at Burnley.

Reece James and Christian Pulisic scored either side of a double from Kai Havertz.

ERIKSEN’S IMPACT

A touching — and amusing — reaction from Norwich defender Brandon Williams in his team’s 3-1 loss to Brentford pretty much summed up the general feeling toward Christian Eriksen as the Denmark international took another positive step in his remarkable recovery from suffering a cardiac arrest.

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Eriksen produced a cynical foul on Williams, who — not knowing who fouled him — was initially furious and seemed ready to respond aggressively to his opponent as they rolled together on the ground. When Williams realized it was Eriksen, he playfully hugged the Dane.

Erikson was making his first competitive start since June 12, when he collapsed on the field while playing for Denmark against Finland at the European Championship, and he had a hand in two of the three goals scored by Ivan Toney in a crucial win for Brentford.

Its first league win in nine attempts moved the team six points clear of the relegation zone and kept Norwich in last place.

Newcastle also pulled further away from the bottom three with a 2-1 win over Brighton that extended the Saudi-owned team’s unbeaten league run to eight games.

INGS REMINDER

Southampton’s five-match unbeaten run in the league was ended following an inspirational display by one of its former players.

Danny Ings, who left Southampton last summer because of a contract dispute and joined Aston Villa, offered his old club a painful reminder of his attacking prowess by scoring one goal and setting up two others in a 4-0 win for Villa.

Ollie Watkins, Douglas Luiz and Philippe Coutinho also scored.

Villa is safe in mid-table and on the same number of points as Crystal Palace, which won at slumping Wolverhampton 2-0 thanks to goals by Jean-Philippe Mateta and then Wilfried Zaha from the penalty spot.

It was a third straight loss for eighth-placed Wolves.

UKRAINE TRIBUTE

All of Saturday’s matches were preceded with pre-match applause in a tribute described by the Premier League as a “show of solidarity” for Ukraine following the invasion by Russia.

The message “Football Stands Together” was written on the big screens inside the stadiums and the Premier League’s avatar on its Twitter page was changed to yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine.

The tribute was marred by some Chelsea’s fans, who interrupted the minute’s applause at Burnley by chanting the name of the club’s Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, who put the club up for sale this week after 19 years of control.

“It is not the moment to give other messages,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said. “It’s the moment to show respect. We want to do this. As a club we need our fans to commit to this minute of applause.”

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80