Leeds United 2 (Bamford 73, Roberts 90+5)
This record we’re putting together against the bottom seven sides is astonishing! We’ve won home and away against them all with the sole and annoying exception of those two losses to the pesky Seagulls from Brighton! A win against West Brom in front of our fans on Sunday will be a clean sweep of 12 wins against them all… Brighton (spit) aside!
The win tonight was hard fought against a side that remember, at one time this season, sat top of the table! OK, they fell away, but they are a tough nut to crack, another physical side, another side capable of trying to bend the rules too especially with that bloke Tella who would rival Tom Daley in a diving competition! Compare him with Patrick Bamford who absolutely refused to go down when impeded by McCarthy. I know which player I respect more!
So, tough it was and, a bit like Burnley last Saturday, they started strongly albeit, also like Burnley, without actually causing us too much trouble. All eyes were on Kiko Casilla of course as that was a strange decision to put him in the firing line again so late in the season, but he came through with an almost faultless performance, particularly early in the game when we were on the back foot. The 4th minute save from the Che Adams header was a fine save and so important at that stage and while the second, low to his left again from Adams, was less difficult, it too was vital. The longer the game went on though, despite numerous personnel changes, Leeds only looked stronger and stronger and the high press got more and more troublesome for the Saints.
The two goals came late of course but they were well worth waiting for and were really great examples of how we can break quickly against a tired side, just as Rodrigo punished Burnley late on. The first had that stamp of Rodrigo magic on it again as he lifted a clever ball over the defence into the path of Patrick Bamford. Paddy did well to finish it too from such a tight angle with maybe the slightest bit of luck as it went through McCarthy’s legs to find the net. Rodrigo is very much coming into his own and let’s hope we can start the new season with him in the side and fit and that he comes through the Euros unscathed.
The second was actually down to the quick thinking of Kiko Casilla as he launched the ball out wide to Raphinha with the tired Saints mainly still in our half. Raphinha pushed the ball inside to Tyler Roberts who also had Jack Harrison wide of him if needed. He decided he didn’t but then he took too long to sort out what he was going to do and his chance was seemingly lost. The ball broke though for Patrick Bamford who wasted no time at all in walloping the ball goal-wards! That was blocked and came straight back to Roberts and this time he did look far more composed as he took a touch and then calmly passed the ball into the empty corner of the net. Nice composure from a player who may well now come on leaps and bounds for having got his debut Premier League goal. We’ve seen in the past that he can finish with the best of them but maybe his confidence has been lacking and this could do the trick.
Leeds were well worth the win by the end and another clean sheet will help to push those memories of conceding a bag-full of goals early in the season more and more to the back of our minds. There is no doubt we have become a much more solid defensive unit since the arrival of a fit Diego Llorente.
So, a top half finish is now guaranteed, regardless of what everyone else does in the final two games and we all feel a little bit guilty now I’m sure that at one point we thought the key task was to stay ahead of Fulham! Tonight we proved again what a talented side we have, how we are as fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog and how the Bielsa MO can work in the Premier League really well if the players on the pitch can continue to put the plan into effect. Berardi looked comfortable tonight when he came on and even removing Kalvin Phillips and Llorente at halftime didn’t impact our organisation one bit.
I still believe we need to further upgrade this summer but, as I said in the previous report, only a couple of really top notch players are probably needed if Bielsa is to continue with us. A 4th season of Bielsaball can surely only ingrain the weekly match plan in the existing players even more than it already is and just a sprinkling more of stardust could , should, see us really making inroads against the top seven, never mind the bottom seven.
Possession 51% 49%
Shots 18 15
On Target 3 7
Corners 4 5
Fouls Committed 10 12