Paweł Cibicki stars as Leeds United's under-23s continue ascent under Carlos Corberán
Friday, 23rd Feb 2018 16:40 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United's fledglings have now lost just once in their last five matches...
With Paul Heckingbottom and Jamie Clapham in attendance, Leeds United's under-23s maintained their improving form of late with a pulsating victory against title aspirants Sheffield Wednesday at Thorp Arch earlier today.
First-team pariahs Paweł Cibicki, Jay-Roy Grot and Ouasim Bouy all featured as Carlos Corberán's team ran out 3-2 winners at Thorp Arch, with Cibicki's brace, coupled with a late Adrian Balboa strike, proving decisive.
Leeds' securing of a second victory in three games - and a most welcome one at that after they were held by Sheffield United, another local rival, to a 1-1 draw in their last outing - sees them elevated to sixth in the Professional Development League table.
The youthful Whites made a particularly auspicious start to this encounter, with Cibicki, who has only been selected sporadically for the first-team at Elland Road since moving to English football from Malmö FF, spectacularly scoring two superb goals in the game's juvenescence.
But the visitors would soon finesse for themselves a route back into the contest, with George Hirst, their precocious forward and a player who has purportedly piqued Leeds' interest in recent times, being felled by home defender Pascal Struijk in the eighth minute.
Declan Bourne, the attentive referee, did not hesitate to award the Owls a penalty, which Swiss midfielder Almen Abdi, who has only been accorded a solitary first-team start this season, tucked away with aplomb.
Leeds, deployed in a flexible 4-5-1 formation by Corberan, appeared unperturbed by the setback, continuing to coolly control the tempo of the match by carefully retaining possession - but to no avail.
For the next clear opening would fall the way of Wednesday, in the 27th minute; Hirst expertly swivelled on a sixpence to evade the defensive clutches of United's Paudie O'Connor before testing Bailey Peacock-Farrell with a venomous drive from just inside the area. The striker's effort was a commendable one, packed with power and ferocity, but the Leeds custodian was able to superbly tip the ball over the bar.
Owing to their sensible use of the ball, the hosts were able to negotiate the remainder of the first half without permitting their opponents to fashion any further opportunities - but the Owls really exerted copious attacking pressure during the second period's youth.
First, Wednesday striker Fraser Preston skilfully gulled home defender Hugo Díaz on the left channel before crossing for Hirst, who was only inches away from making an emphatic contact with the ball.
Second, a rasping drive from Preston was desperately cleared off the line by Diaz as Leeds defended stoutly to preserve their advantage.
Toil though they did, United could not forestall the inevitable and, eventually, the unrelenting visitors were rewarded for their pressure. In the 77th minute, a rudimentary ball down the channel was sezied upon by Hirst, who lashed home just as Peacock-Farrell rushed out to try and thwart him to score his first goal of the season.
The momentum was now the preserve of the visitors, with just 13 minutes of normal time remaining. Scenting three delectable points, the Owls tried to swoop - but were guilty of allowing themselves to become susceptible to counter-attacks as they sought a winner.
And, sure enough, they were punished for overexerting themselves when United's Balboa sprinted onto a through ball before rounding the Owls' goalkeeper, Dan Wallis, and slotting home the decisive goal.
United: Peacock-Farrell; Díaz, Pearce, Struijk, O’Connor; Bouy, Nicell, Rey, Balboa, Cibicki; Grot.
Wednesday: Dan Wallis; Ben Hughes, Joe West, Connor O’Grady, Freddie Nielsen; Liam Williams, Almon Abdi, Ciaran Brennan, George Hirst; Connor Grant, Fraser Preston.
Analysis: Whites continue resurgence under Carlos Corberán with fantastic Wednesday win
Although Carlos Corberán will doubtless feel some disappointment at the fact that his side relinquished a two-goal advantage, he will surely also feel some pride after his players demonstrated great fortitude to score the winning goal. United more than held their own against the Owls, who occupy second place in the Professional Development League table.
Meanwhile, the trio of first-team outcasts who featured today performed to wildly differing standards. Paweł Cibicki set the first period alight, with two goals taken in consummate style, and Jay-Roy Grot cut an imposing figure, earning a few battle wounds for his effort, but Ouasim Bouy failed to make a tangible impact upon proceedings and did little to impress the onlooking Paul Heckingbottom.
The victory is certainly representative of the resurgence enjoyed by United's under-23s following former defender Ian Harte's recent, and disparaging, remarks.
And Corberán's fledglings can now look ahead to their next game - away to Hull City on March 10 - with confidence, having taken seven of the previous nine points available to them.
Photo: Action Images
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