Like at Barnsley, Huddersfield Town game casts Leeds United in role of Yorkshire's annoying big brother - Graham Smyth's Verdict

Leeds are fast becoming Yorkshire's annoying big brother.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 8th December 2019, 12:00 pm

Twice they have rolled into a neighbouring town, rolled their sleeve up for an arm wrestle and having allowed it to become more of a struggle than it really ought to have been, eventually overpowered their opponent.

Just like at Barnsley, Leeds' quality shone through in the end at Huddersfield and they took a 2-0 victory.

But the little brother in the fight got his digs in, albeit without causing any real damage, and at half-time Leeds were looking a little worried.

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It took a moment of second half brilliance, a satisfyingly well-struck Gjanni Alioski volley, to break the Terriers' resistance and if their arm wasn't yet flattened, it was past the point of no return.

A Pablo Hernandez header, at the end of a sweeping team move, sealed the deal.

Huddersfield still created chances late on, but by that stage Leeds, with a two-goal lead, were holding them at arm's length, seemingly still vulnerable yet annoyingly out of reach.

What will irk the Terriers most is that they had the better start to the game and should not have allowed Leeds to escape back up the M62 with a 12th clean sheet of the season.

Gjanni Alioski provided a game-changing goal (Pic: Getty)

The suspension of Kalvin Phillips had created a little worry in the ranks during the pre-game discussion, but the absence through injury of Liam Cooper created uncertainty in the Leeds back line and allowed Huddersfield to gather some momentum.

Despite a blood and thunder opening to the game from the men in blue and white, it was Leeds who should have gone ahead, a clever set-piece routine freeing up Mateusz Klich for a 15-yard strike that cannoned off the post.

It appeared, briefly, as if Leeds had settled. It was a false dawn, the storm had not passed.

Huddersfield made life very difficult and Leeds gave them a helping hand with heavy touches, poor decisions and niggly fouls, the game assuming a pace and a pattern that suited the hosts far better.

Patrick Bamford provided irritation (Pic: Getty)

The 10 first half free-kicks awarded to Huddersfield allowed them to bully a visiting side missing their most aerially dominant centre-half and midfield enforcer. Even if Leeds won the first header, the second became a lottery, Huddersfield feeding off the scraps and growing in confidence.

Kiko Casilla was busier in the first half than he has been in several previous games combined, hurling himself through the air to tip Steve Mounie's header over the top, saving again from the same player at the back post and then rushing out to punch clear, Karlan Grant's follow-up goalbound shot headed wide of the empty net by Luke Ayling.

Leeds did have one or two moments in the first half and 60 per cent of the possession, but they lacked the control to get on top of the hosts and their indiscipline began to take a toll, Klich and the out-of-sorts Stuart Dallas picking up yellow cards.

But for all the danger posed by Huddersfield from set-pieces, they failed to turn it into goals.

After the break, big brother stopped playing nice.

Having struggled to score from corners all season, they made it two in two games, Hernandez' delivery headed out as far as Alioski who caught the ball perfectly on the volley, sending the ball back through the crowd and into the net.

Goals change games, they say, and this contest was soon unrecognisable, Leeds cutting open a team who could no longer stay compact and resolute, Bamford glancing Alioski's cross wide before Hernandez sent a shot off target.

It was Leeds' turn to be annoyed when a smart move released Dallas in the area, he found Bamford and the net bulged again, only for an erroneous offside flag to go up.

The centre forward was then denied by Kamil Grabara and thereafter went on a one-man mission to embody the spirit of the older brother.

His second half performance rivalled anything Alioski has done to earn the wind-up merchant tag at Elland Road.

He got away with murder all afternoon without seeing yellow, so much so that Huddersfield went running to the grown up, but referee Gavin Ward never administered more than a telling off.

The sight of him barrelling around the pitch, winning physical battles, getting under the skin of defenders and drawing fouls and off-the-ball confrontations made him public enemy number one for home fans and only endeared him further to the away end.

His job done, he sauntered off to give Eddie Nketiah a turn and the substitute was on the pitch barely a minute before he played a part in a beautiful team goal.

Leeds worked the ball from their right-back position, one-touch football bypassing any trouble en route to the middle, where Nketiah moved it left for Harrison to run on and whip in the perfect cross, Hernandez heading home.

The galling thing for Huddersfield was that they too created chances in the second half - Casilla had produced a sublime save to beat away Elias Kachunga's point-blank header midway through the half - and continued to threaten in the final stages when it was all a bit too late.

Karlan Grant headed wide from a free-kick, another delivery almost fell for Steve Mounie and Matty Daly's shot squeezed just the wrong side of the post.

'2-0 in your cup final,' rang out from the visiting fans and Leeds saw out the final minutes in style, teenage centre-half Oliver Casey making an eye-catching debut before the final whistle made it six wins on the spin.

It won't soothe the irritation felt by Terriers much, but Bielsa believes they will be a team on the up come January, and if they can play like they did for 45 minutes with 10 senior players injured and no left footers on the pitch, on a regular basis, they will be fine this season.

Meanwhile, big brother's attention will turn to another Yorkshire sibling - Hull City, at home, on Tuesday.

Bielsa's Leeds are rolling up their sleeve again.