Leeds United 3 (Bamford 47, Dallas 78, Raphinha 84)
That feels good! It was a tight game, a nervy watch I’m sure for most Leeds fans, and yet, by the end, it was comfortable as Leeds got stronger towards the end while the fight and the legs drained away from Southampton. They pushed us all the way and, on another day, with different officials, it could have been tricky with those two big calls in the first half. Fortunately, for once, VAR got the call on a diving player correct, while Andre Marriner can't be said to have been all at sea as he was strong enough to stick to his guns over that split second too early taken free kick. If VAR will now move to the next level and start recommending diving players are cautioned then it will start to become a useful tool rather than an annoyance.
This felt like a huge game to me, not that we were yet in any real trouble but I felt the defeats against Arsenal and Wolves could have put some seeds of doubt in our minds; players and fans that is! The Arsenal defeat was to a large extent self-inflicted while at Wolves we just didn’t get the rub of the green and those are two things that you don’t want to carry on for long. This time we didn’t do too much wrong; being asleep when that free-kick was taken needs a, err, wake-up call, and that pitch made standing never mind passing a challenge, but when we could stay upright we were almost faultless against a side that has shown at times this season can mix it with the best. It was an unusual challenge for Leeds too, as Saints bossed the possession more than any other side has managed against us this season while managing more attempts as well.
I thought Illan Meslier was again superb today, looking confident and commanding with just the one daft loose pass out towards the touchline; he has clearly put the Arsenal fiasco behind him and hopefully is a better keeper for it. There were some smart saves from him at crucial times.
Elsewhere there was another classy performance from Raphinha who has made such a huge difference to us since he has settled in and once again was our stand out performer. Another slide rule finish from Patrick Bamford was another highlight too while it is too early to make much comment on Diego Llorente; he was a bit Curate’s Egg today; good in parts but again really struggling to get to grips with the pitch.
The ability to put the pace of Helder Costa on late in the game also showed that we do have some depth to this squad of ours when everyone is available while it was nice to see Pablo get minutes even if he was more midfield control than incision today.
Overall it was a game to give confidence to all concerned with the club; another three points nearer to confirming our Premier League status, not only as we’re now 13 points above the drop zone again but because there are seven other teams between us and Fulham who would all need to have better ends to the season than Leeds for us to be in trouble. That’s unlikely if we can continue to pick up points in games like this against teams that are in our section of the table.
Villa will be another tricky game against a similar quality of team, whether they have Grealish or not, but if we remain as clinical and as strong as we did today we might well get another good result out of that one. My only concern would be that pitch which looks tailor made for a slip leading to a goal! More research on finding the correct footwear this week please Leeds!
Leeds United Southampton
Possession 47% 53%
Shots 11 13
On Target 7 5
Corners 2 4
Fouls Committed 11 13