Leeds United 3 (Klich 15, Hernandez 45+1, Cooper 57)
Stoke City 1 (Afobe pen, 52)
I never dreamed Leeds would beat Stoke so comfortably today, in fact I didn’t think we’d beat them at all! My logic was that our likely team was clearly going to be largely the side we saw perform as the 1st XI in the three pre-season games in which that side played – the new recruits, Bamford, Harrison and Douglas, came so late that I didn’t think we’d see any of them in the side. In the event Bielsa was brave enough to throw Barry Douglas straight in but the rest, as well as Blackman and Baker were on the bench as was Pontus Jansson who has also had very little time to be schooled in the ways of Marcelo Bielsa after the Swede’s late return to Leeds after his World Cup exploits
Therefore, I reasoned, our team from last season surely wouldn’t be strong enough to hold a Stoke side recently demoted from the Premier League and which had already spent over £30 million quid in the summer. Wrong!
My logic was floored by a few things. Firstly there is the Bielsa effect – we did expect our side to be full of running, super fit, and to press quickly and as high up the pitch as possible. We saw all those things and, secondly, it was a major surprise to our visitors who clearly hadn’t watched the Bielsa videos! Stoke City quite simply couldn’t cope. Rowett has already commented that it was a culture shock for some of his ex-Premier League players… you just don’t get sides playing like Leeds did today in the Premier League.
So, Leeds were very good and Stoke were very poor. Thirdly, I think we may have also seen that other aspect of the Bielsa effect, he did appear to get a lot more from the players than we saw at the back end of last season. I’m not going to stress that too much though because we did see this same group of players play in a similar fashion, and with similar early season success, at the start of the last campaign when we overran the likes of Forest and Sunderland, albeit neither was as good as we thought at the time and that may still prove to be the case with Stoke. Who knows?
So, for now, we just have to rejoice in the victory and the performance but as Bielsa reminded us after the game, it is too early to read much into it. We started well last season and then it all went wrong; we don’t know how good or bad Stoke are; other teams will have watched the game today and will no doubt be better prepared against us than Rowett’s Stoke were which will make our trips to Derby and Swansea perhaps even more difficult. And of course we have to maintain the intensity we saw today in every game to see the same rewards. Is that even possible?
We do have a few new players itching to play their part though; today they were on the bench but I tend to think there is quality there now we didn’t have in the past, so that looks good too!
All in all it was a great start to the season and more than that, it was bloody enjoyable to watch!
Leeds Utd Stoke
Possession 52% 48%
Shots 11 9
On Target 5 5
Corners 3 3
Fouls 14 8