Jesse Marsch back from the brink after Leeds fight off FA Cup upset with 2-goal comeback

With Leeds United just two points above the Premier League relegation zone nearing the campaign's halfway point, an FA Cup exit to EFL Championship side Cardiff City on Sunday would've certainly left Jesse Marsch's job security on the brink.

It looked pretty hopeless at halftime after Jaden Philogene and Sheyi Ojo scored to give Cardiff a 2-0 advantage while the 6,000 Leeds supporters who'd made their way to Wales booed their players and manager off the pitch.

Leeds hadn't attempted a shot on target, looking dismal at both ends of the pitch, and Marsch waited until the hour mark to bring on leading scorer Rodrigo and $13 million signing Max Wöber (a transfer with Marsch's imprint from RB Salzburg days).

Rodrigo breathed new life into the side and pulled one back in the 65th minute off Sam Greenwood's cross.  

With 10 minutes remaining, Leeds had an opportunity to level from the spot after a handball that resulted in a red card for Cardiff defender Joel Bagan, but Rodrigo's tame effort was saved by Jak Alnwick.

Marsch turned to his bench again with just four minutes remaining by taking off Brenden Aaronson and replacing him with 18-year-old Englishman Sonny Perkins. It was another frustrating performance for the 22-year-old American, who's now played 18 games for Leeds with just one goal and two assists.

He didn't complete a single dribble, was dispossessed four times and had his only shot blocked. But Aaronson's replacement immediately got it done by being in the right place at the right time to turn home Junior Firpo's flick in the third-minute of second-half stoppage time.

"Pride," Marsch said when asked about his post-match emotions. "Always when you see the heart we showed. And eagerness to capitalize on the opportunity at hand to get back to Elland Road." 

The 2-2 result means there'll be a third round replay at Elland Road on either Jan. 17 or 18. Marsch could recall Tyler Adams for that one after resting the USMNT captain on Sunday because of an Achilles issue, but first up is a Premier League match against Aston Villa on Friday, Jan. 13.

In the FA Cup fourth round, Leeds or Cardiff is set to play Boreham Wood (non-league) or Accrington Stanley (League One) between Jan. 27-30.

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