|West Bromwich Albion 4 v 1 Leeds United|
Saturday, 10th November 2018 Kick-off 17:30
Leeds suffer a reality check at the Hawthorns
Sunday, 11th Nov 2018 21:15 by Tim Whelan
After the excitement of going back to the top last week at Wigan, Leeds were brought back to earth by a crushing defeat at the hands or West Bromwich Albion.
Marcelo Bielsa kept faith with the the same starting eleven that had served him well in the last few games, which meant that Samu Saiz again had to make do with a place on the bench, while Dallas continued at right back in the absence of any better option.
But it was the home side who began with greater intensity, perhaps as a plan to stop us playing out from the back and to counter our pressing game. Throughout the match our defence struggled to cope with the pace and power of their forwards, while Phillips struggled to give the back four a great deal of protection.
In the early stages Albion created several opportunities to take the lead, the best of them from Adarabioyo, who shot wide when a corner dropped to his feet. And as Leeds struggled to get into the game, the home side again went close when Barnes shot into the side netting after a neat move, but their best chance of the half was a shot from Rodriguez that crashed against the bar.
At the other end Hernandez scuffed our best chance so far with a shot well over the bar that wasn’t really worthy of a player of his quality. Our best effort of the half came as the interval approached, as Klich tried a sidefoot shot that was on target but easily gathered by Johnstone. He might have done better to have hit it with his left as he could at least have generated a bit of power.
We had been lucky to go in all square at the break, and Albion took only six minutes of the second half to go in front. It all began with Leeds in possession in the Albion box, when Klich could have taken a shot but chose to pass to Roofe, who went down after a challenge but without clear enough contact for the referee to give a spot kick.
Instead Albion cleared and Robson-Kanu was able to race away down their left. This time there was none of the mass tracking back that delighted us in the Wigan game to surround the man in possession, so perhaps our players were worn out by WBA’s attacking in the first half. So Robson-Kanu was able to pick his spot and fire powerfully past Peacock-Farrell into the far corner.
Both our Northern Ireland internationals have copped a bit of flack on Twitter today for their part in this goal. Peacock-Farrell could have done better as the shot was very close to his feet, but he couldn’t react to block it. And Dallas didn’t get across to close Robson-Kanu down, though at least he has the excuse of playing in an unfamiliar role to try to help out.
Albion doubled their lead in the 67th minute when Klich was disposed in midfield and Phillips was able to run through unchallenged before shooting past Peacock-Farrell from 25 yards. Again our keeper could have done better, even though the shot was powerfully struck and bounced just before it reached him.
As Leeds tried to get back into the game Alioski tried a shot from a narrow angle, but was never likely to score from that position and the ball ended up in the side netting. By now our Macedonian was getting frustrated and tetchy, getting into quite a few arguments when he thought he’d been fouled.
In the 66th minute Bielsa tried his first substitution to get back into the game. Roofe had struggled to make an impression, and showed that against top defenders he doesn’t have the physical presence to be a lone striker. His replacement was his fellow ex-Baggie Tyler Roberts, but once again Roberts spent most of his time going too wide and too deep when we really needed him in the 6 yard box.
More contentious was the decision to substitute Douglas for Harrison, with Alioski dropping to full-back. Douglas reacted badly to being taken off, and while the idea was to give us a bit more going forwards, the change only seemed to further unsettle the defence. The final change saw the withdrawal of Klich, who hadn’t had his best game of the season, in order for Saiz to have a go.
But any chance of a late rally was killed off with two quick Albion goals in the 82nd and 83rd minutes. The first came from Harvey Barnes after Harrison had given the ball away upfield, but the defending for the fourth goal looked even worse. The ball was crossed for Gale, who had his back to goal when it arrived, but was able to turn and shoot in the knowledge that there was no one behind him to keep it out.
We did manage a consolation right at the end and it was actually a good goal, a neat move ending with a cushioned header from Hernandez over the keeper into the far corner. If it had been a decisive goal we’d have raved about it, but as it was it hardly mattered, unless goal difference becomes crucial at the end of the season.
And that was about it, with Leeds going down to our worst defeat of the season so far. I had expected to get something from this game, as Albion had been on a relatively poor run, but this was always going to be one of the hardest games of the season so maybe we shouldn’t get to get too downhearted.
Albion have still got plenty of Premier League quality players, and really the squad they had last season would have been good enough to stay up if they hadn’t been handicapped by Alan Pardew’s management for a good part of it. But after the weekend’s results we drop to third place, and we could have done without Norwich’s last minute winner against Millwall.
Marcello Bilelsa now has two weeks to ponder this defeat during the international break and work out what improvements he needs to make. And thankfully four the next five fixtures will be a lot easier than yesterday’s encounter, so despite this defeat we should still be amongst the leading clubs going into the festive period. MOT!
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