|Leeds United 4 v 0 West Bromwich Albion|
Friday, 1st March 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Leeds bounce back with comprehensive win over WBA
Saturday, 2nd Mar 2019 18:33 by Tim Whelan
What a difference three days makes! After the defeat at QPR had us all slashing our wrists, Leeds surprised everyone with this superb performance that was much too good for West Bromwich Albion.
After Tuesday night’s defeat there were many among the Leeds United online community who thought the team was lacking desire and others who thought that we might be getting a bit tired as a result of Bielsa’s intense training methods.
So it was a bit of a surprise that when he again announced his team two days early it was exactly the same starting line-up who took to the field at Loftus Road. One change I would have made was to put Ryan Edmondson on the bench in case we needed a bit of oomph up front later in the game. But what do I know?
Tyler Roberts has explained that there was a lot of anger in the dressing room after the QPR game, but at the same time a lot of belief that they were better than that result suggested, and a lot of determination to put things right. And boy, did it show in this game, right from the kick-off!
WBA kicked off, but a headed interception set Harrison away down the wing, and his pass found Hernandez in space just outside the box as the defence backed off. On Tuesday he had finished our first move by shooting wide from a similar position, but this time made no mistake as he hammered the ball into the top corner. It was timed at 16 seconds, almost our fastest of all time!
Albion had a chance to get back on level terms straight away (and I thought it would be typical Leeds if they did) when Cooper conceded a free kick from a dangerous position. But it was deflected wide by the wall, and we dealt with the resulting corner without too much difficulty. After that Leeds were back at them, and Albion never looked like being able to cope with our pace and intensity.
We almost went two in front when Roberts was played in right in front of goal, but he could only direct his shot straight at Johnstone, and the WBA keeper also made a fine save from Phillips. The second goal did arrive in the 28th minute, when Roberts sent an excellent ball through to Bamford, who stayed calm despite a defender closing in, and directed his shot just inside the far post.
It wasn’t until the closing stages of the first half that Albion looked like they might find a way back into the game. Their best effort of a good spell was a long range dipping shot from Rodriguez that Casilla did well to tip over the bar, and Aradabioyo headed just wide from the corner. But Leeds got through to half time without any further problems, and were very good value for the lead.
There might have been a few harsh words said in the visitors’ dressing room at half time, and they did show a bit of determination just after the restart. Hernandez needlessly gave away a free kick in a dangerous position, charging back to tackle Robson-Kanu even though Cooper was blocking the Albion man’s way to goal. Gareth Barry crossed and Robson-Kanu sent the header wide.
And that was just about Barry’s last contribution. Having already been booked for a foul on Roberts he got a final warning after clattering into the same player, though to be fair he had tried to pull out of the challenge at the last second. But with the crowd baying for a second yellow his manager wasn’t taking any chances, and Albion’s most experienced player was substituted just after the hour mark.
And a minute after he’d gone, Leeds were three in front. It happened while Alioski was lying injured after being wrestled to the floor, and had Albion been in possession we would have been yelling at the referee to stop play. But Leeds continued as we had several players in space on our left, and when Roberts played the ball through to Bamford his shot took a deflection that gave Johnstone no chance.
But still there was no let-up from Leeds despite the 3-0 margin, perhaps with an eye on the need to improve our goal difference to catch up with Norwich and Sheff U. Bielsa freshened things up by putting Dallas on for Harrison, and got himself worked up enough to pick up a yellow card for disputing a throw in.
We were close to a fourth when the ball fell kindly for Alioski to hit it with his left foot outside the box, but it flew just wide, and Klich also had a go from distance, forcing Johnstone into a fine save. As we moved into injury time Roberts was taken off, and got a deserved ovation for his performance against his former club.
Shackleton game on, and the youngster (is it just me, or does he really look about 12?) still found time to make a decisive impact. He made a couple of surging runs down the right, the second of which set up Alioski to force the ball home from close range to complete the 4-0 victory. As Mark Twain might have said, rumours of our death have been greatly exaggerated.
I could ask why we don’t play like this in every game, but it hardly seems to be the right time for that, when we should just be celebrating this brilliant performance. It took us back to the top overnight, but Norwich have gone back in front today and for once we will be supporting the Wednesday on Monday night, in the Sheffield derby.
So in the end this result might not have done us that much good in terms of the race for the top two, but it has at least knocked WBA further back in terms of automatic promotion, which is starting to look like 2 from 3. It’s now their turn for the fans to have a meltdown on social media, with Darren Moore getting hammered for his tactics and his inability to react once a game is in progress.
For us, the key ingredient might just be that Bamford is getting back to fitness and overcoming the rustiness that affected him in the last few games, which were understandable after his spells out with injury. So despite what I said at the start, perhaps we don’t need Edmondson on the bench after all, at least not for now.
Bamford is a better natural finisher than Roofe, so if he stays fit for the rest of the season, we might just be able to turn our dominance into wins and pick up the points we need. MOT!
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