Pat-rified! Bamford & Co have em’ running scared.
Leeds United conjured up their best performance of the season, boosting their promotion hopes, whilst simultaneously denting those of opponents West Bromwich Albion.
United went into the game just three days after a disappointing defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night. Marcelo Bielsa named an unchanged line up giving each of his players the opportunity to atone for their lacklustre showing midweek. The visitors, one place behind them in the Championship, had won 8 of their previous 9 away fixtures and had inflicted Leeds heaviest defeat of the season in the reverse fixture back in November. A win would see United return to the top of the table for 24 hours at least.
If there were any doubts or pre-match nerves prior to tonight’s game then they were soon eased when Pablo Hernandez put the home side in front after just 16 seconds. Liam Cooper rose superbly to head the ball into the path of Jack Harrison down the left flank who in turn found Hernandez on the edge of the penalty area. The Spaniard, with options in the box, elected instead to strike the ball beautifully into the top corner sending the Elland Road crowd into raptures. With Leeds going on to win each of their previous league games this season in which they have scored first, the signs were ominous for the ‘shell shocked’ Baggies. United had started at a ferocious pace, pressing high, hunting in packs and stifling their opponents when out of possession. When in possession, their earlier season fluid passing and movement, had returned and in some style. Hernandez was at the heart of things again, linking up with Ayling to find Roberts in behind but the former West Brom youngster shot straight at Johnstone on 12 minutes. The home crowd were equally rising to occasion. Kalvin Phillips epitomising his side’s commitment and desire in the tackle, dispossessed his man just as Albion were looking to break. With a darting run, Phillips found himself in space on the edge of the box, but his shot was well stopped by Keeper Johnstone.
Leeds were relentless and were soon two goals to the good. Klich’s pass found Tyler Roberts on the edge of the box and with a delicate through ball put Patrick Bamford in on goal. Showing great composure under pressure, the striker calmly slotted home from a tight angle. 2-0 up inside half an hour. The Baggies were struggling to get any foothold in the game at all. A couple of set pieces and a long range effort from Rodriguez were all they could muster as an exhilarating first half drew to a close.
Reeling from a first half where they were dominated from start to finish, Albion returned from the break attempting to fight fire with fire and press Leeds. They had a great chance to halve the deficit when a curling Gareth Barry free kick wasn’t dealt with by Casilla and thankfully Robson-Kanu nodded just over the bar. Buoyed by their brightest spell in the match the visitors forged another decent opportunity to get themselves back in the game. Hernandez needlessly bringing down Robson-Kanu on the edge of the box presented Dwight Gayle with free kick in a dangerous position. Not for the first time tonight the shot found Pontus Jansson in the wall and United were able to clear. The link up play between Roberts and Bamford proved difficult to deal with all evening. Captain Barry can consider himself lucky not to have received his marching orders following two heavy challenges on Roberts with the referee deeming only one worthy of a caution. This proved to be the catalyst for change as the hour mark approached with Barry being replaced by James Morrison.