Leeds Utd 3 (Rodrigo 17, Phillips 42, Bamford 79 pen)
West Brom 1 (Robson-Kanu 90)
If Carlsberg did final games of the season… then they would probably look like this one! There was always the fear ahead of this game that West Brom, a relegated side, would turn up playing like Barcelona for the only time this season and spoil our party. But Leeds, with a very different side to the one that has usually been seen this season, never allowed the Albion even a sniff of any last game glory with the possible exception of a slack moment in the final minutes to allow them a consolation goal. For the rest of the game we saw some carnival football played by a side that looked determined to go out with a bang and to give the fans present a glorious hint of what might be to come next season. It was almost the perfect end to a glorious and stellar season with delightful and professional performances from the two men we knew were leaving us today after playing central roles in our recent journey from Championship mediocrity to Premier League entertainers.
It was only fitting that Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi got to say farewell on the pitch and with Leeds long ago having secured a second season in the Premier League and with the fans finally allowed inside Elland Road, the football gods set this one up perfectly to allow them both to start and neither disappointed. Any neutral watching Leeds for the first time today would not have guessed that both players had hardly featured this season nor that both were playing their final games in the white shirts. Pablo was the Pablo of old, the Pablo who almost single-handedly guided us through those final nine crowd-less games of last season to see us to the Championship title. Gaetano was rock solid at the back and Pablo was beguiling in midfield and, looking at the sorry state of the West Brom players, I’m sure both Pablo or Berra would walk into their current side.
It would have been perfect had Pablo managed to score but that was not to be although he had two or three chances that the Leeds fans did their best to suck into the net. Instead the first goal came from the new man in town, the man who looks to have it in his talents to supersede Pablo and Berra and become one of the legends of this new Premier League era. He was on hand to nod the ball home in the 17th minute as the Albion failed to deal with a whipped-in Raphinha corner. Raphinha also has it within his talent to become one of the new breed of Leeds legends.
The second goal reminded us just how lucky we are to have the services of Illan Meslier, a keeper who seldom errs between the posts although Bielsa has kept the young man on the bench for these final two games. Sam Johnstone, the Albion keeper completely misread a Kalvin Phillips curling free kick that appeared to bounce over him and left him as pink in the face as his kit.
Patrick Bamford completed the rout in the 79th minute as he neatly despatched a penalty. Leeds had other good chances including several more for Patrick Bamford, some of which, on another day, we’d have been annoyed to miss. Right at the death the Albion, a sorry looking outfit who looked poor in every department, were gifted a consolation. They too had chances, but their finishing was woeful while too many of their players looked to be going through the motions while Leeds appeared determined to finish in style. The perfect evening was just spoiled a tad by an uncharacteristic slip by Kalvin Phillips, failing to control a pass from Liam Cooper that led to the Albion goal and maybe also contributed to a rush of blood that caused him to then slide in unnecessarily for a tackle on the touchline that resulted in a serious looking shoulder injury that I’m sure Gareth Southgate will now be keeping tabs on.
When the other final day results had been assimilated, Leeds had finished 9th in the table, an incredible achievement, especially when we remember how little time our four big summer signings have managed on the pitch together this season. The foundations have been laid and now we are in a great position to build something very special. There is work to do in the summer for sure; securing that signature of Marcelo Bielsa on another contract extension and bringing in a couple more top quality players to fill the obvious gaps in the left back and midfield areas, but, subject to that, it’s hard to see Leeds not being a force to be reckoned with again next season, and one that can start to bring regular victories against sides at the top of the table as well as the bottom sides that have generally, Brighton apart, been comfortably disposed of this season.
We had a glimpse today of what sort of atmosphere we can get inside Elland Road and that from only 8,000 fans; let’s hope that come August the old place is full and we can show the Premier League that we can provide a quality soundtrack to go with our quality football.
Leeds United West Brom
Possession 64% 36%
Shots 17 14
5On Target 9 5
Corners 8 3
Fouls Committed 12 12