MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 2 Leeds United 2 (Fleetwood lost 5-4 on penalties)
Fleetwood head coach Uwe Rosler nearly engineered a cup shock against his old club Leeds as his Town side just lost 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out at Highbury.
It was a brave, skilful and determined performance from Rosler’s men but after the sides found themselves unable to be separated at the final whistle of extra time it went the the cruellest way to leave the competition, penalties.
As was the way throughout the 120 minutes the side’s were locked at 4-4 in the shoot-out. Pablo Hernandez rifled home Leeds’ fifth but Town midfielder Eggert Jonsson’s penalty was saved by veteran keeper Rob Green to send Rosler’s men out of the EFL Cup at the first round against the team he managed for just 11 days in 2015.
But as he left the field to cheers from both sets of fans Town’s new head coach was happy with his side’s performance despite the narrow penalty defeat.
Fleetwood dominated the first half and passed Leeds off the park with a solid defensive display and a cut throat attack.
Rosler has said that it would take a while to put his stamp on this Fleetwood side but it was a team a world away from what the Cod Army was used to witnessing at Highbury in the first 45 as they attacked with menace but kept a solid defensive and midfield shape as Rosler’s revolution continues to roll.
The German sent his men out in a 4-3-3 formation with David Ball, Amadi-Holloway and Devante Cole preferred up top and from the kick-off you could not tell which side was the higher league opposition as Town harassed Leeds.
And new boy Amadi-Holloway showed his poachers instinct int he 13th minute to give Town the lead. Leeds failed to clear a David Ball corner from the right, it got pumped back into the mix, Nirennold looked as though he was about to pull the trigger at the back stick but Amadi-Holloway nipped in front to blast the ball home.
Ronaldo Viera was booked for taking out Ball in the 20th minute as Town frustrated the Championship side and continued to keep the large travelling support quiet.
Amadi-Holloway nearly made it two but his half volley was just cleared off the line by Leeds
Roofe’s low rocket just parried away and he blasted another from distance that Neal had to bat away at full stretch as the visitors began to get back into the game.
Leeds started brighter in the second 45 and and pushed Fleetwood back but Rosler’s men soon regained a foothold and started to produce some probing counter-attacks.
Rosler withdrew goalscorer Amadi-Holloway in the 60th minute as he continues his rehabilitation from an ankle injury but the striker looked impressive both on and off the ball.
His replacement Hunter went down in the box as he tried to latch onto Cole’s pass and then the substitute curled Ball’s cross from the right just over the bar after finding himself unmarked in the box.
Wood teed-up Hernandez unmarked at the back stick with a defence splitting square ball but he summed up the visitors night as his first touch was dire and the golden opportunity rolled away.
Roofe’s long range rocket flew just past the right stick and Leeds nearly levelled in the 70th minute as Taylor steamed down the left flank and fizzed the ball in to Wood who got ahead of his man at the near post and just scooped the ball over the bar from six-yards out.
Bartley took Grant out mid-run deep in the Leeds half and was booked for the strong challenge that left the Fleetwood sub writhing around in pain on the grass.
The forward dusted himself down to whip the free-kick in towards the towering figure of Bolger at the back stick but the defender was flagged offside.
Rosler made a tactical substitution that perhaps did not pay off as Town packed bodies in their own half to defend against a Leeds side that threw bodies forward with the lively substitute Andersson at the forefront of their slick attacking play.
Pond was thrown on for Cole to shore up the defence nine minutes from time and he was in the book without even kicking a ball as he ended up having a bit of handbags with Bamba in the Town box as they waited for Leeds to whip in a corner and he was on hand to clear the danger.
The move saw Town switch to a 4-5-1 formation with Eastham pushing up into midfield and Hunter deployed as a lone striker as they tried to weather a string of late Leeds attacks.
But despite defending gallantly Leeds finally broke down Town’s defence as just moments after Wood had squandered a good half chance substitute Antonsson popped up to pounce on McLaughlin’s poor clearance in the box and rocket the ball past Neal.
And Antonsson was in the hub of the action once again as Leeds took the lead.
The striker appeared to be in an offside position when he was tripped by Eastham but the linesman’s flag stayed rooted to his side as the referee pointed to the spot and booked Eastham.
Wood, who had looked off pace most of the night, stepped up to send Neal the wrong way and smash the ball home just four minutes into the first half of added time.
Town spent the rest of the first 15 of extra time toiling and trying to figure out how to break down Leeds but after a re-group at the interval and some passionate words from Rosler they came out fighting in the second 15.
And it was livewire Hunter who made the difference as he latched on to Jonsson’s cut back to power Town level with 10 minutes left on the clock.
The game went to a penalty shoot-out and they could not be seperated after four apiece as Leeds’ Wood, Antonsson, Mowatt, Phillips fired home and Fleetwood’s Grant, Ryan, McLaughlin, Hunter all netted second to keep it locked at 4-4.
Hernandez stepped up to make it 5-4 but Jonsson’s effort was just tipped away by the diving Robert Green.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Bolger, Eastham, Bell, Ryan, Jonsson, Nirennold, Ball (Grant, 72), Holloway (Hunter, 60), Cole. Subs: Cairns, Pond, Kip, Duckworth, Haughton, Hunter.
Leeds: Green, Bartley, Cooper (Bamba, 45), Roofe, Wood, Hernandez, Taylor, Phillips, Sacko (Mowatt, 64), Veira (Antonson, 76), Coyle. Subs not used: Dallas, Grimes, Turnbull, Mowatt, Denton.
Attendance: 3322 (Leeds 1325)
Referee: D Coote.