This Leeds United side is finding no obstacle insurmountable

Football derby matches are notoriously difficult to predict but Leeds United fans need not have worried pre-game about Saturday’s Championship fixture with Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 8th December 2019, 8:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 8th December 2019, 8:44 pm
Leeds United man-of-the-match contender, Gjanni Alioski. PIC: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Leeds United man-of-the-match contender, Gjanni Alioski. PIC: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

And the Yorkshire Evening Post’s supporters’ jury explains why it, too, needn’t have harboured any uncertainty.

No obstacle appears insurmountable for Marcel Bielsa’s Leeds, at the moment.

Here’s our jurors’ verdicts on Saturday’s 2-0 win.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Eye-catcher, Jack Harrison is chased by Huddersfield's Demeaco Duhaney. PIC: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia

David Watkins

I was too cautious with my pre-match prediction of a draw; the belief in themselves this Leeds side clearly has seems able to propel us through any obstacle at the moment, even a Yorkshire Derby or two! Let’s make it three on Tuesday when the Tigers come to town!

For now, it’s six straight wins and we’ve beaten every one of the current bottom seven in the Championship, banana skins and all. In the years BB (Before Bielsa) these were the sort of struggling sides we often found difficult to get results from.

Huddersfield made us fight all the way though and had they buried any of their several, very-decent chances, the outcome might have been different.

Leeds also missed chances and, having been so ruthless against Boro, it was disappointing to revert to a position where we hit the target only four times from 14 attempts; hardly any better than the Terriers’ three from 10. That self-belief is all consuming though, and will only get stronger the longer this run goes on!

Man of the match: Gjanni Alioski Alioski (with a special mention for a faultless ten minutes from young Oli Casey).

Matthew Evans

This wasn’t a classic of the genre but Bielsa’s Leeds are proving they can win in lots of different ways.

They certainly needed to mix it up a bit against a Huddersfield side that were, in equal measure, hapless, dangerous and sly. I’ve not seen players as keen to go down under a challenge for some time and it often paid dividends for the home side as they were granted free kick after free kick.

It meant United were forced to give them room rather than risk the yellow card being brandished in their face and allowed Huddersfield to look slightly better than they are first half.

Gjanni Alioski broke the deadlock with a superb strike from outside the box and, all of a sudden, Huddersfield’s players preferred to stay on their feet and continue the game.

That made for a more enjoyable second half and a more open game. We had a perfectly good goal ruled out and still had time to score a second through a rare Pablo Hernandez header.

Bamford, Casilla, Ayling and young Ollie Casey were all worthy of praise.

But Alioski himself grabs my man of the match shout on his return to the first team.

Man of the match: Gjanni Alioski.

Andy Rhodes

After a derby win like that, it must be a sign that Marcelo Bielsa is getting it right.

In previous campaigns, other Leeds United sides may have rolled over after coming up against the direct and aggressive football that the Terriers played in the first half of Saturday’s derby.

But Leeds are a different animal these days and, instead of the second half being more of the same, United took it by the scruff of the neck.

Gjanni Alioski’s goal set the tone early on and, from then onwards, United looked in control. Kiko Casilla was called into action, though, to keep out efforts from Steve Mounie Elias Kachunga.

In truth, there were some nervy moments but Leeds could’ve had more goals.

Mateusz Klich struck the post while Patrick Bamford was unlucky not to put away a second-half header.

Games like this would have been a real struggle in seasons gone by, but this time around, this Leeds United side looks like the real deal.

Man of the match: Kiko Casilla.

Keith Ingham

Leeds claimed the ‘bragging rights’ in the West Yorkshire derby with a 2-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium.

The win was their sixth in a row and an impressive unbeaten run that goes back to October. The win took them back to the top of the Championship before West Brom returned to the summit with a 5-1 home win over Swansea on Sunday.

Despite the lack of the services of Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper – one suspended and Cooper had a calf strain – they had enough to beat a spirited Town side who themselves were lacking experienced players.

An open game with plenty of excitement to keep the 24,000 fans entertained on a cold, winter’s Saturday lunchtime. Leeds were unlucky in the first half when Mateusz Klich hit the foot of a post from a well-worked corner routine. Town also had a fine chance to get the opener but Kiko Casilla brilliantly tipped over a Mounie header.

The second half belonged to Bielsa’s boys, a step quicker in midfield as they dominated possession.

And it was only a matter of time before they got their noses in front.

A corner was half-cleared but only to the sweet left peg of Gjanni Alioski, his superb shot from outside the box beat Grabara all ends up and United had a deserved lead.

Leeds should have doubled their lead at least but Patrick Bamford’s header went high and wide, then Grabara saved excellently to deny the United striker.

Town’s best chance fell to Kachunga but Kiko Casilla saved brilliantly from his close-range header.

United’s second goal was all about ‘Bielsa ball’, a quick break ended with Jack Harrison supplying a superb ball into the Town penalty box that Pablo Hernandez finished beautifully with a header inside Grabara’s near post.

Pretty much game over as Leeds saw out the game pretty easily. They did make one youngster’s day though, defender Oliver Casey coming on as a late substitute for Klich and the defender didn’t put a foot wrong in his first start in a grey and pink Leeds shirt.

One for the future is this lad as he’s well-thought of within the club.

So Huddersfield don’t get the chance to do a civic parade for beating their West Yorkshire rivals and look to have a long season ahead of them.

And without some additions and some selling of players, who quite obviously see their future away from the club, it could be quite a battle to avoid their second relegation in two seasons.

As for Leeds, their ambitions are at a different level and another three points would be very welcome when Hull City visit Elland Road on Tuesday night.

It won’t be a easy game as they have one of the most sought-after players in the Championship.

Jarrod Bowen got another two goals in their win over Stoke City and will have to be kept an eye on by whoever is in the Leeds rearguard.

Man of the match: Jack Harrison.

Mike Gill

For the first 45 minutes the Terriers lived up to their name. Not only did they bag 50 per cent of the possession but they came very close also.

Kiko Casilla showed his class and delivered the goods when called for. Matteus Klich rattled the post but United spent too much time on the back foot. The naysayers and manic depressives of social media were already calling for Ben White to be restored to the centre of defence and Stuart Dallas to be moved up.

But we all know that our glorious leader is made of sterner stuff and that plan ‘b’ is to play plan ‘a’ better.

Not long after half-time, Clown Prince Alioski picked up a loose ball from a corner and drove the ball home from 15 yards. This gave United new heart and Pablo Hernandez made it two from a beautiful move that culminated in a perfect pass from Jack Harrison for the Spaniard to head home at the far post.

In fairness to Town, they kept on trying and, with a bit more luck, could have caused discomfort for the Whites.

Man of the match: Gjanni Alioski.