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Leeds cruise to late season victory over Burnley
Sunday, 16th May 2021 12:39 by Tim Whelan

In the early stages this looked like being a difficult game, but once Burnley ran out of steam and we took control, our clinical finishing took us to an emphatic final scoreline.

There were two changes to his starting line-up from the last game, and these were the returning pair of Phillips and Raphinha. Koch was unlucky not to even make the bench after his performance against Spurs, but Cooper was fit again and Bielsa didn’t want two of the subs to be central defenders.

Some of us would like to see a few younger players get a chance now we’re in a safe mid-table position, but there is £2m TV money for every place we move higher in the final table, which may be why we continue to field the strongest available side. There were three of our old boys in the Burnley side, with Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood, while Bailey Peacock-Farrell got a game because Pope was out with a shoulder injury.

Burnley made a good start to the game, and for a while it seemed that their old-fashioned physical approach would be difficult for us to cope with, as we can struggle against teams who match our high tempo approach. They forced a couple of corners and had the first chance of the game, a shot from Brownhill that went narrowly wide.

But from the middle of the first half we started to dominate possession, and a shot on the turn from Bamford forced Peacock-Farrell into a fine save. Tarkowski had the first of his many moans of the afternoon, claiming that a foul had created the space for the shot. But in fact he had tripped over Bamford’s leg while Bamford was on the floor with his back to him, so it certainly wasn’t a deliberate foul by our striker.

Then Alioski was teed up in a good position but his embarrassing shot was so wide it went for a throw-in instead of a goal kick. Our favourite Macedonian would have a rather wayward afternoon, in more ways than one. Our next chance was much closer, when Phillips picked out Struijk with an excellent cross, but the unchallenged dutchman sent the header narrowly wide. With his presence in the air he will be deadly once he learns how to head the ball in the right direction.

Another chance came when a cross from Harrison bounced up before Rahphinha could meet it at the far post, and when he tried a spectacular overhead it kick it went over the bar. He might have been better knocking it back for Klich, who racing into the box in a good position. But Klich was to seize the opportunity to put Leeds in front just before the break.

As Leeds broke into the Burnley half Bamford was knocked to the floor, but the referee played on as Klich was racing forward. Bamford got up but didn’t have time to get into position for a pass, which might have confused the defence as they didn’t quite seem sure who to pick up. So Klich was left to run through unchallenged, and with no obvious option for a pass he shot from well outside the box and curled it round the defence into the corner of the net past an unsighted Peacock-Farrell.

As in the first half, Burnley began the second period looking lively, and their best chance of the game came a few minutes after the break. Our one-time transfer target Vydra took possession and raced through into the box, only to be denied by a smart stop from Meslier, who deflected the shot wide with his legs.

But from the hour mark onwards Leeds would again begin to dominate possession as the home side faded. Sean Dyche would later blame their lethargy on the emotional effect of the game earlier in the week when they beat Fulham to secure their Premier League status for another season. Bielsa made his first change by sending Rodrigo on for Bamford, presumably to give him a bit of a run-out as Bamford hadn’t done a lot wrong.

But Rodrigo was quickly into action, first forcing the corner from which we scored the second goal. It was played out to Alioski, and although his shot was a lot closer than his effort in the first half it was still going wide. That was until Harrison reacted in time to apply a deliberate deflection to knock the ball inside the post, and he had been played onside by two defenders.

Burnley weren’t quite finished yet though, and Meslier had to save with his legs once again after a one-two had sent Gudmundsson into the box in a dangerous position. Then we had the extraordinary clash between Alioski and McNeill, which I’ve covered at length in a separate article . Shortly afterwards Roberts replaced Klich, but Rodrigo remained a lone striker, and was to show his prowess twice in the next few minutes.

He collected a pass from Harrison with his back to goal, and too defenders out of the game with a superb turn, before lifting the ball over the advancing Peacock-Farrell. And the move for his second and Leeds fourth started with an excellent pass from Phillips out to Harrison, and from his through ball Rodrigo took the ball round Peacock-Farrell to score from a narrow angle.

After all the injury and illness problems Rodrigo has suffered this season it’s great to see what he can do, and hopefully he can kick on from this and make a major contribution in 2021/22. The final substitution saw Poveda get a run out in place of Raphinha, but not before the Brazilian had endured one more unnecessary kick from Tarkowski, who was getting angry about nothing in particular.

The final scoreline could have been even more emphatic, as Tyler Roberts was teed up in a good position but sent his shot straight at Peacock-Farrell. He is still searching for his first Premier League goal (though he’s been unlucky with VAR a couple of times) and he won’t get one with finishing like that.

Finally the referee put Burnley out of their misery with the final whistle. In truth the emphatic scoreline didn’t really reflect the balance of play over the whole game, but our finishing always carried the greater threat and once again Llorente and Struijk were excellent at the back. If we had found this defensive solidity earlier in the season, who knows where we would have ended up.

With two winnable games to come before the summer break we could well end the season with only one defeat in the final eleven games, and with a couple of tweaks in the transfer window we are starting to look very well set for 2020/21.

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