|Leeds United 3 v 0 Preston North End|
Tuesday, 18th September 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Leeds United 3-0 Preston - Roberts at the double as Whites rubber stamp credentials
Wednesday, 19th Sep 2018 08:04 by @LucasMonk_
Owing to a vibrant, virtuoso exhibition of attacking football, Leeds United ensured their remaining top of the league and the continuation of their unbeaten start to the season by resoundingly defeating Preston North End at Elland Road on Tuesday night.
Liam Cooper headed home to hand Leeds a first-half lead before Tyler Roberts made the points safe with a well-taken brace - his first competitive goals for the club since his move from West Bromwich Albion in January.
United head coach Marcelo Bielsa remained true to the lineup that salvaged a late draw away to Millwall at the weekend, with Jack Harrison retaining his berth on the right flank after netting the all-important equaliser in that match.
And after Bailey Peacock-Farrell acrobatically denied North End’s Callum Robinson from range early on, the hosts began to find their groove - and it did not take them long to manufacture their first clear opening of the evening.
With a quarter of an hour played, a flowing move built from the back saw Harrison play a perceptive through ball that rendered the North End defence asunder and left Mateusz Klich with only visiting goalkeeper Declan Rudd to beat, but the Poland international steered wide.
United continued to press, pass and probe for the opener, with Roberts seeing one effort blocked and another saved and Ezgjan Alioski having a goal ruled out for offside after rounding, and finishing past, Rudd.
For all their venturesome endeavour in open play, it would ultimately be a set-piece from which they broke the deadlock, as Cooper met Barry Douglas’s wondrously wicked delivery from the right with a diving header toward the bottom corner that squirmed past Rudd and eluded the desperate attempts of Daniel Johnson to hack clear.
The goal was richly deserved, but Bielsa’s charges could and should have doubled their money just three minutes later after an impressive break upfield.
Luke Ayling regained possession inside the Leeds half before finding Saiz, who promptly burst forward with great gusto and found the onrushing Klich, who could only fire wildly over the bar after beating Ben Davies for pace.
The start of the second period proved rather more tepid than that of the first after Preston’s Josh Harrop fired wide from distance in its early exchanges, and United were limited to ambitious attempts from range that were often blocked by a stout visiting rearguard.
But the league leaders began to turn the screw once more, and they soon finessed another gilt-edged chance on 72 minutes.
In another eye-catching move, Douglas played the ball back for Cooper, who fired a crisp pass into the feet of the irrepressible Saiz, who then found Harrison.
Having gotten the better of his marker, the Manchester City loanee ran through on goal and attempted a placed shot - but found the inside of the post instead of the net before North End cleared their lines.
That was to prove a stark warning for Alex Neil’s side, who had hardly been in the match - and it was one that they failed to heed.
Just two minutes thereafter, and the game was put well and truly beyond their reach.
Roberts raced onto an exquisite, lofted through ball from Kalvin Phillips before making his way into the area and sending a delicate chip arching over Rudd and into the net for his maiden Leeds goal, and the delight on the 19-year-old’s face was plain for all to see as he sprinted over to the home supporters to celebrate the occasion.
But he and the hosts were not done there.
Pontus Jansson won possession inside the Preston half before passing for Harrison, who found Saiz.
The Spaniard then brilliantly worked some space for Klich, to whom he passed.
And Roberts made no mistake from the Polish midfielder’s deft cross, heading into the net from close range to put the icing on a very well-made cake that went down a treat with the adoring home crowd, who saw their team cement their position at the division’s pinnacle in consummate style.
Truth be told, the margin of United’s victory could have been even greater as Preston’s defensive frailties were mercilessly exposed on several occasions by a deadly combination of crisp passing and clever movement, but it would be churlish to not mention the diligence and determination Bielsa’s men exuded whenever they found themselves in the unusual position of not having possession.
Leeds dominated the ball and played with a vigour and vivacity that has become synonymous with many of the Argentine’s erstwhile sides, and, on this performance, they look to be genuine contenders for promotion.
Evidently, Bielsa has the necessary gravitas and tactical acumen to take the club to the Premier League, and the quite remarkable transformation of the Whites from a middling, mediocre outfit that lacked any sort of coherent style to a supremely vibrant and dynamic attacking force is no small feat.
Will it last? Time shall be the judge, but United have shown that they possess the makings of a formidable Championship outfit, and yet one feels that there is still a great deal more to come.
Match Gallery: 7 photos
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Peacock-Farrell; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Douglas; Phillips; Harrison, Klich (Forshaw 88’), Saiz (Baker 90’), Alioski; Roberts (Dallas 86’).
Unused Subs: Blackman, Pearce, Clarke, Edmondson.
Preston North End (4-2-3-1): Rudd; Fisher, Clarke, Davies, Earl; Browne (Gallagher 79’), Johnson; Barkhuizen, Harrop (Barker 71’), Robinson; Moult (Nmecha 79’).
Unused Subs: Maxwell, Hughes, Huntington, Burke.
Match Statistics (Leeds / PNE)
Shots: 17 / 5
On target: 5 / 3
Possession: 62% / 38%
Corners: 4 / 3
Fouls: 12 / 12
Booked: Alioski (Leeds), Browne, Johnson (PNE).
Man of the match: Tyler Roberts (Leeds).
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Photo: Action Images
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