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Leeds: Meslier stakes late claim for World Cup spot v Liverpool

Speaking ahead of Leeds‘ clash with Liverpool on Saturday evening, Jesse Marsch looked beaten.

His days as manager at Elland Road were seemingly numbered with segments of the stadium craving his exit from Yorkshire.

Usually such an upbeat character, the American admitted: “I’ve never lost this much in my career. I’m sick of it.”

Evidently, Marsch has the thirst to get Leeds out of their current predicament and we saw that at Anfield.

Virgil van Dijk hadn’t lost there in 70 Premier League matches, while the club as a whole had not tasted a league loss at home since March 2021.

With that in mind, there looked like there was little hope for the Whites going into that match. It’s what makes their 2-1 win even more staggering.

Leeds have been walking towards a relegation battle again but they looked revitalised against Liverpool, even if they did have to withstand a barrage of attacks. Rodrigo was gifted a goal early on and then Crysencio Summerville, who celebrates his 21st birthday today, popped up with a late winner that sparked incredible celebrations.

Although the Dutchman will take the plaudits, it was goalkeeper Illan Meslier that ensured Leeds won the game. Without the giant stopper, they’d have been dead and buried, with the Frenchman putting in arguably his best display in a Leeds shirt.

He made nine saves throughout the encounter, the most by a goalkeeper in a Premier League match this term and the highest number Meslier has made in a single game since he moved to English football.

One such save came from the boot of Darwin Nunez in the second half, as the 22-year-old raced out and smothered the attempt at goal. Another sharp stop from Jordan Henderson at his near post epitomised a remarkable performance between the sticks.

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What makes it all the more incredible, is that during the game he completed zero passes from his 25 attempts. Leeds weren’t able to build from the back but it didn’t seem to matter, as the young ‘keeper put in a classic goalkeeping display, putting kicking to one side and instead relying on his hands, as one should when you don the number 1 jersey.

It was a performance late in the day that may well earn him a spot in France’s World Cup squad. Mike Maignan faces a race against time to be fit for the tournament and as the Athletic’s Adam Crafton suggests, the “potentially brilliant” goalkeeper will “be France’s no 1” in the future.

The 6 foot 6 behemoth is yet to be capped by his country at senior level but performances like this will only aid his cause. There could be a space in Didier Deschamp’s squad and Meslier should certainly be in with a chance of being Hugo Lloris’ understudy.

Having won 100% of his duels during the win over Liverpool, the youngster looked “shellshocked” at full-time, such was the performance. Dubbed “immense” by Leeds Live’s Will Jackson and “outstanding” by Graham Smyth, it was a display that will live long in his memory.

As statisticians SofaScore put it so well at full-time, he was well and truly their “Anfield hero” on Saturday night.

Article title: Leeds: Meslier stakes late claim for World Cup spot v Liverpool

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