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Leeds United 4 v 1 Port Vale
EFL Cup
Wednesday, 9th August 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Leeds United 4-1 Port Vale - Sparkling Sáiz puts Valiants to the sword
Thursday, 10th Aug 2017 05:03 by @LucasMonk_

In a wholly one-sided match at Elland Road, Leeds United progressed into the second round of the Carabao Cup by recording a comprehensive victory over League Two outfit Port Vale on Wednesday evening. The highlight of the match was doubtless a wondrous hat-trick from Spanish attacking midfielder Samu Sáiz, who enjoyed an infallible first outing in the colours of his new club having signed from Huesca in July.


Led by the stellar Sáiz, who marked his first competitive appearance in English football with a superlative hat-trick, a much changed, yet imperious Leeds United swept aside their League Two opponents - managed by former midfielder Michael Brown - with ease.

Sáiz, 26, was but one of a quintet of new signings who were awarded debuts in this match; Madger Gomes, Mateusz Klich, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Caleb Ekuban would all also play integral roles in assisting in United’s emphatic victory.

Though Sáiz’s opening goal in the 12th minute was neutered by an equalising goal on the part of a former Leeds midfielder - Michael Tonge - just prior to half-time, the Whites held their nerve and rediscovered their faculty to tear their opponents asunder at the seams in the second period. Further strikes from the Spaniard in the 61st and 63rd minutes of the match ensured United’s progression into the next round, but there was still time for Ekuban to score his first goal in English football to increase the margin of victory.

Focus will now shift to Saturday’s meeting with Preston North End at Elland Road; a victory for head coach Thomas Christiansen would make him the first Leeds boss since Jimmy Armfield to win all of his first three matches at the helm.


Lineups

Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Anita, Ayling (Gomes 70’), Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson; Klich (Bridcutt 58’), Vieira; Sacko (Alioski 57’), Sáiz, Dallas; Ekuban.

Unused Substitutes: Peacock-Farrell (GK), Phillips, Hernández, Wood.

Port Vale (4-4-2) - Lainton (Hornby 45’); Davis, Smith, Kay, Gunning; Reeves, Tonge, Pugh (Harness 80’), Turner; Pyke, Forrester (Pope 62’).

Unused Substitutes: Gibbons, Calveley, de Freitas, Whitfield.

First-Half

The hosts began the match, shooting toward a South Stand that bore an unfamiliar quality: in that it was entirely bereft of supporters.

United would make a sprightly start to the match. Thomas Christiansen’s charges took it upon themselves to establish a hegemony of the midfield during the game’s earliest embers, controlling possession with a discernible self-assurance as they sought to carefully craft goal-scoring opportunities. The first clear opening of the match, though, would arise in the seventh minute - for the visitors. Leeds-born Huddersfield loanee Rekeil Pyke sparked a great deal of fanfare among Port Vale supporters after rattling in four goals in his first two pre-season appearances for the club, but after the Valiants launched a swift counter-attack he could only direct a timid effort into the grateful hands of United ‘keeper Felix Wiedwald.

Michael Brown’s side would be made to rue Pyke’s spurning of what was a gilt-edged chance. Six minutes passed before Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas crossed from the left channel. The winger’s delivery was wayward - eluding whoever the intended recipient may have been - but rather fortuitously for Leeds, the ball was to connect with the far post before bouncing benevolently for Samu Sáiz - the Spaniard was not in any mind to squander a trouble-free chance to mark his United debut with a goal, dispatching the opportunity with aplomb. A solitary touch so as to cushion the ball was all the 26 year-old required before powering the ball home to open the scoring with 13 minutes played.

Not content with a slender lead, Leeds continued in their application of attacking pressure. Left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who recently signed for the club on a season-long loan from Manchester United, was the next player to chance his arm for the hosts, lashing a left-footed effort toward goal from distance that elicited a good save from Vale ‘keeper Rob Lainton.

Further efforts from Dallas and Caleb Ekuban would follow, before the visitors - perhaps a little undeservedly - restored parity on 37 minutes. A hefty throw-in from Vale’s Gavin Gunning was nodded on firstly by Pyke before receiving another flick by Dan Turner, and Michael Tonge, who previously had spent three years at Elland Road, took a touch before firing a low effort past Wiedwald and into the back of the net.

Half-Time: Leeds United 1-1 Port Vale - Sáiz (13’).

There was one change to speak of during the interval; after appearing to have sustained an injury, Vale goalkeeper Rob Lainton was replaced by his younger understudy Sam Hornby - a product of the Burton Albion youth academy.

Second-Half

As United had begun the first-half, it was Port Vale’s right to start the second with Danny Pugh, another former White, setting the ball into motion.

It was not until 10 second-half minutes had elapsed that either side would muster a tangible attack; Ekuban controlled a driven ball with his chest before unleashing a low, volleyed effort toward goal, only to see his attempt held by substitute ‘keeper Hornby.

In an attempt to inject a dose of impetus into his side, head coach Thomas Christiansen elected to send on central midfielder Liam Bridcutt and fleet-footed winger Ezgjan Alioski in place of Mateusz Klich and Hadi Sacko respectively. This decision was to prove a masterstroke.

Alioski nigh made an instantaneous impact: the Macedonian’s curling, left-footed effort was beaten away by an attentive Hornby at the near post and, though the shot did not culminate in a second Leeds goal, it was clear at that juncture that the complexion of the match had been radically altered.

Two minutes passed before United reclaimed the lead. In consequence of a measured and pragmatic move, Sáiz expertly rounded a hapless Hornby before tucking a slotted effort into the empty net after receiving a pass from Ronaldo Vieira.

Sáiz, however, had not yet finished tormenting the now miserable Vale rearguard. The mere notion of progression into the next round was soon obliterated from the minds of United’s opponents only a moment later. Following industrious play from Alioski, Ekuban’s nonchalant backheel paved the way for the Spaniard to take possession in his stride before thundering the ball into the top-left corner to put beyond doubt a home victory.

United, in spite of having now established an ample lead, would not relent. In the 79th minute, Alioski would be denied by Hornby as he had been only 18 minutes previously. The winger received possession from Vieira prior to directing a venomous effort toward goal that the visiting goalkeeper did exceedingly well to divert over the crossbar.

The hosts would - to the delight of an adoring crowd - add a fourth goal to ensure that the scoreline was commensurate with the sheer quality of their display in the 83rd minute. Alioski registered a second assist in as many games - after surging past an opposing defender - as his weighted ball from the right of the penalty area was fired home in consummate and composed style by Ekuban.

And to compile additional misery upon the travelling contingent of supporters who had made the journey from Staffordshire, there remained time for defender Gunning to be shown a second yellow card for an impetuous foul on Alioski as the game neared its end.

The full-time whistle was greeted by ebullient cheers as Sáiz gleefully collected the match ball, before further endearing himself to his new supporters by performing the infamous ‘Leeds salute’.

Full-Time: Leeds United 4-1 Port Vale - Sáiz (13’, 62’, 63’), Ekuban (83’).

Match Statistics (Leeds / Port Vale)

Possession: 67% / 33%

Attempts: 23 / 5

On Target: 10 / 2

Corners: 6 / 1

Fouls: 12 / 14

Man of the Match: Samuel Sáiz (Leeds).

Booked: Gomes, Klich (Leeds); Gunning (x2), Pope (Port Vale).

Match Facts

Venue: Elland Road

Attendance: 15,431

Referee: Peter Bankes

Writer’s Verdict:

A resounding victory that a superlative performance on United’s part wholly merited. The platoon of debutants each made an impression; Cameron Borthwick-Jackson provided defensive solidity both on the left flank and later at the heart of the Leeds rearguard, while Mateusz Klich, Ezgjan Alioski and Caleb Ekuban exuded confidence and contributed to the defeat of our less illustrious opponents.

It was, though, the performance of Samu Sáiz that will quite rightly capture the attention of the assembled media. For one to score a hat-trick while being persistently assailed by lower-league brutes is no small feat. The Spaniard exuded composure, class and finesse and must surely have displaced Pablo Hernández ahead of Saturday’s match against Preston North End.

For Thomas Christiansen, this match is a representation of just how formidable the Leeds United squad has become. To make such a vast number of changes and still secure victory so convincingly speaks volumes, does it not? The flair and skill with which Leeds picked apart their opponents was a joy to behold, and the result makes clear that United are capable of challenging on multiple fronts this season. This was a game that was controlled by the Whites from the beginning to the end; the result never in doubt, the opposition seldom retaining possession for more than a few moments. If the performance produced by United on Saturday is to be anything like that which I witnessed on a thoroughly enjoyable Wednesday evening, then frankly I cannot wait to savour it. For the first time in many years, to be a Leeds supporter is not to be bereft of hope but to have it coming out of your ears.

We may just achieve something most extraordinary this season.


Photo: Action Images



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