Fulham 1-2 Leeds United - good day, bad day and a power shift in Patrick Bamford and Aleksandar Mitrović comparisons
A Leeds United win in London is rarer than hen's teeth so it's no surprise it almost brought a little humour out of Marcelo Bielsa.
The Whites triumphed 2-1 at Craven Cottage to worsen their hosts' relegation trouble and, at the same time, move themselves to a position of almost assured safety.
Bielsa isn't counting his hens just used, though. As expected, he refused to declare Leeds safe with so many points to play for.
But he did very nearly crack a smile when speaking to a broadcaster after the game, having been asked about the club's rancid run of results in the capital.
"They talk a lot about this situation and we're glad it's resolved," he said.
"We hope it doesn't last that long again."
He says he can't be too upset at missing out on an England call up, because he would never have thought back in September that his name would be in the conversation. Yet 14 Premier League goals, his assists, not to mention his pressing and overall contribution to the newly-promoted side's establishment in midtable, make him an obvious candidate for Southgate's consideration. He didn't make it this time round but as Marcelo Bielsa said, there may yet be time for the 27-year-old. All he can do is focus on what he can control, his own performances, and against Fulham he was excellent, playing through pain, as well.
A win in London at long last, a return to winning ways, two games unbeaten, 39 points on the board, a 13-point lead over Fulham, why shouldn't he have been in a good mood? It was a good day for the Whites head coach. Even the concession of a goal from a corner, another one, couldn't really dampen the mood.
A good day to end a good week for Meslier. The clean sheet against Chelsea and their attacking riches, the call up to the France Under 21 squad and the win against Fulham. Très Bien. He made some very good stops in this one, too.
A player who has menaced Leeds United in the past, he was forced to watch the majority of this one from the bench. When he did get on, Leeds dealt with him well. Pascal Struijk coped with his presence at set-pieces. Mitrović is a striker who plundered 26 goals in the Championship last season and was widely regarded as a Premier League player operating at a level below his capability. The comparisons to Bamford, who scored fewer and missed a lot of good chances, were unfavourable. This season Mitrović has just two goals from 10 starts and 13 substitute appearances, both scored against Leeds funnily enough, in the second game of the campaign. He has endured a disrupted campaign through injury and Covid-19, but even so, the comparisons are now heavily weighted in the Englishman's favour. At 26, there's little doubt the Serbian will come good and once again be a terrifying prospect, but this defeat increased the likelihood that he'll be operating in the Championship once more before long.
The left-back didn't have his best game. There was all the energy you'd expect and plenty of attacking intent. He was denied by a fine save from one volley attempt, another was wildly wayward. His first half decision making was poor, however, and put Leeds under pressure. Bielsa spoke of Alioski going through a developmental stage in the Premier League and he has definitely shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, but the performance at Fulham didn't reflect that.
The right-back played well enough, mostly, but having timed his back post arrival to perfection and provided a lovely headed finish to Tyler Roberts' wonderful cross, he was dealt a cruel blow when VAR ruled it out. What's more, he'd already revived his hair-out, air guitar celebration from the win over Huddersfield last March, so we'll all have to pretend that never really happened. It would have been a fine goal. Roberts was offside by a fraction. Another moment of joy taken from us all.
Number of the day
Leeds United have picked up seven wins on the road in the Premier League this season. This one was probably the most important because it opened up a 13-point lead over Fulham, with a game in hand. It's all feeling very safe.