Leeds United 2 Derby County 0: What next with Spygate; Jack Clarke's premiere; Kiko Casilla and a strong case for the defence - Talking Points
AFTER an extremely eventful day on and off the pitch, the YEP's Lee Sobot looks at few key talking points and one obvious one in particular following Friday night's 2-0 beating of Championship visitors Derby County at Elland Road.
Spygate - what happens next?
Friday night's showdown hardly needed any pre-match spice but Derby County's allegations that an employee of the footballing staff at Leeds United Football Club had been spotted acting suspiciously outside their training centre certainly provided it.
There were then rather astonished looks in the Elland Road crowd approaching kick-off as news emerged that Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa had incredibly admitted in a pre-match interview with Sky that he had indeed sent someone to spy on Derby's training session and that he was solely responsible and had not informed the club of his actions.
Unprecedented in the English game, certainly the honesty of it, if not the practice as well.
Fair play to Bielsa for being honest with the 63-year-old only carrying out a technique that he says is commonplace in Argentina and one that even Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino saw no great problems with.
Leeds are also to be commended for publicly apologising to Derby with chairman Andrea Radrizzani meeting with Derby owner Mel Morris.
Yet that is highly unlikely to be the end of it as while Derby had made no official complaint, a statement from the FA on Friday evening admitted that they were aware of the incident and will be investigating the matter.
How English football's governing body deal with the matter is now the million dollar question and one that is very difficult to answer.
Reaction to 'spygate' has not surprisingly divided opinion but there can be little doubt that the FA will take a dim view of the issue and will be keen to ensure the matter is dealt with accordingly by handing out a punishment which very much discourages any repeat.
As Derby boss Frank Lampard said in his post-match press conference: "I believe there’s not an absolute clear-cut rule about it but we can’t open the door to this thing happening every week."
Lampard also insisted there was even a spy in the bushes at a training session in the run up to United's 4-1 success at Pride Park back in August.
There have been varying degrees of suggestions over what should happen now, from a slap on the wrist via a warning or fine/ban to the extreme suggestions from the likes of Jermaine Jenas who believe United should be docked points.
The problem with handing out a punishment is that for this issue there is no precedent which would appear to be slightly worrying.
But it is hoped there is no over-reaction from the FA and seen as as though Bielsa's actions were solely his decision it would only seem fair if the head coach took the brunt of the punishment.
United's brilliant performance
Rams boss Frank Lampard admitted the whole spying episode had definitely disrupted his side's preparations for the clash at Elland Road but the Rams boss was also honest enough to admit that the best team won, offering "no excuses".
Quite how much effect spygate had on Derby's performance both physically and tactically is hard to gauge but either way Leeds were superb and the Whites should have been completely out of sight at half time, as well as potentially 1-0 up inside the first minute.
The officials dropped a big clanger in not awarding Leeds a very early penalty after 32 seconds after Gjanni Alioski was barged over by Andre Wisdom with the Macedonian a good yard onside despite the raised flag.
Indeed, Leeds should have had two spot kicks with Pablo Hernandez also taken down by Tom Lawrence's dangled foot in the 55th minute, right in front of the referee.
But United were menacing throughout and in many ways their display mirrored the ferocious performance of Josh Warrington in his successful recent IBF featherweight title defence against Carl Frampton - at it from the off and full of energy, pace, power and desire. The only difference is Derby offered very little back.
The Rams were suffocated by United's high press football and while there have been many fine performances this season, notably Derby and Norwich away, this was potentially United's best yet.
It's a big if and there are also injuries plus other squads strengthening to contend with but if Leeds continue to reproduce performances like Friday's in their final 19 games then a return to the Premier League - at long last - seems on the cards.
Saturday's 1-1 draw between key promotion rivals West Brom and Norwich City at The Hawthorns could also be seen as the perfect result for Leeds with Sheffield United now second on goal difference ahead of the Canaries with the duo both four points behind Leeds.
United now have a seven-point gap back to the Baggies in fourth with United 13 clear of the teams outside of the play-offs but this is undoubtedly an automatic promotion and title push.
Leeds now head to a Stoke City side who still look out of sorts despite the sacking of Gary Rowett and appointment of Nathan Jones and the weekend after the Potters clash could be particularly crucial with United away at fourth-bottom Rotherham United as second plays third when Sheffield United visit Norwich.
It quite simply means that two more wins from their next two games would put Leeds at least six points clear of the teams outside of the automatic promotion spots with 17 games to go.
Liam Cooper's perfect return
You could more or less go through the whole United team handing out the plaudits with skipper Liam Cooper notably making a superb immediate return at centre-back after six weeks out with a knee injury.
He and Pontus Jansson were colossal at the back and it's no coincidence that United suddenly produced their first clean sheet in six games with the duo re-united.
The return of Gateno Berardi and also Stuart Dallas for that matter also appears fairly imminent and with goalkeeper Kiko Casilla also set to sign from Real Madrid, maters are suddenly looking very rosy at the back for a side who had previously conceded 12 goals in their last five games.
Despite a couple of hairy moments involving Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Derby rarely looked like scoring and what was United's 11th clean sheet of the season was one of their most comfortable yet with Adam Forshaw also producing quite possibly his best display yet for Leeds in the midfield holding role.
Gjanni Alioski also looks well worth persevering with at left back, a position which seems to suit his game well coming on to the play.
But sticking with the defence it will be fascinating to see who lines up in goal for Leeds at Stoke if Casilla signs in time to be available for Saturday's clash at the Potters.
Peacock-Farrell might have kept a clean sheet but the young 'keeper was lucky not to concede a penalty for a high foot on Duane Holmes in which he might have been sent off and that will be a big call for Bielsa when the time comes.
Clarke will tear you apart, again
Other notable points worth highlighting include a very decent display from Jack Harrison who was naturally delighted to bag his second goal for Leeds and also the constant running and classy finish from Kemar Roofe who is now already on 13 goals for the season.
Mateusz Klich also produced his best display for some time with the Pole playing in the no 10 role in the latter stages of the second half with Pablo Hernandez on the left hand side.
Luke Ayling also had a solid enough game whilst both Jamie Shackleton and Leif Davis made very positive impressions off the bench but perhaps the final word should be on young Jack Clarke. What a talent.
It seems crazy to think that Friday's outing was actually Clarke's first league start for Leeds and a rather scary prospect that the winger will not turn 19 until November.
The teen is already progressing at a rate of knots and his pace, skill and ambition left the Rams defence in knots with Clarke not surprisingly picking up the man of the match award as part of a display in which he was key to setting up both goals.
Leeds have seen some real gems come through their Academy over the years but certainly in recent times Clarke looks the best of them and it is pretty obvious that his future lies in the Premier League and at the top end of it too.
In an interview just before Christmas, the teen revealed his only ambition was to not just fire Leeds to the Premier League but to keep them there and Bielsa is going to have a hard job not starting the teen from here on in.
Pontus Jansson's late knock
If there was a downside to Friday's victory - other than potential implications of Spygate - then it might have been events in the 94th minute.
With seconds left, the excellent Jansson produced a fine stretch to win the ball deep into injury time and then skinned Martyn Waghorn who caught the defender with a late lunge and was booked for his troubles.
Jansson was left writhing around on the ground, flipping over from side to side and the Whites defender then reacted extremely angrily when Waghorn appeared to suggest the Swede had made the most of his challenge.
Jansson pointed down to his leg as the full-time whistle was blown and while Cooper and Clarke prepared for the post-match Sky interviews, Jansson was pictured limping about and then later laid down face down on the pitch and punching the floor.
It has to be said, that did not look particularly promising but Jansson's brother Peter then took to Twitter in the early hours of Saturday morning to alleviate any concerns.
He Tweeted: "Great win tonight. Back with the energy again! And to everyone that has asked about Pontus. He is fine and looking forward to next battle.?
Music to the ears of Whites fans following an incredible day and night at Elland Road.