Gjanni Alioski makes huge Leeds United statement in seeing off Tottenham's Gareth Bale
GJANNI Alioski kept his place in the Leeds United starting line up against Tottenham and excelled in seeing off one of the Premier League's star men in Gareth Bale.
Natural winger Alioski endured a torrid first half in last weekend's 2-0 loss at Brighton in which he conceded a first half penalty for a clumsy challenge on Danny Welbeck.
The 29-year-old North Macedonian was taken off at half time as right winger Stuart Dallas switched to left back but Alisoki was again given the nod to start against Spurs.
That meant a battle against in-form Bale who had bagged a hat-trick from the right flank in last Saturday's 4-0 win at home to Sheffield United.
Bale clearly set out to get at Alioski but was kept quiet in the opening exchanges as Leeds began brightly.
Alioski then produced a fine crossfield pass to Stuart Dallas in the 14th minute that began the move that led to the Whites taking the lead through Dallas.
Bale's header from a corner was kept out by a strong Illan Meslier save shortly afterwards but Alioski kept the Welsh star firmly in check for the opening quarter of the game,
Another gem of a pass for Patrick Bamford began another Leeds attack in the 24th minute but seconds later Alioski was left chasing Heung-Min Son's shadow as the Spurs striker raced away to draw his level from Delle Ali's through ball.
Alioski was effectively left with both Bale and Son to deal with as Spurs poured forward and with Alioski focusing on Bale, Son was not properly covered and was never going to miss after being played in.
Luke Ayling was the next closest man to Son as Harry Kane dragged Pascal Struijk away with a clever run and Diego Llorente had stepped up to try and tackle Alli.
But Alioski soldiered on and then stuck to Bale like glue in the 35th minute as the Welshman looked to beat him and eventually cut inside to start a move that came to nothing.
Another fine pass for Harrison down the left followed but Bale skinned Alioski minutes later only for Alioski to get back and tackle at the second attempt.
But it was at the other end of the pitch that Alioski then made his biggest impression yet three minutes before the break as the North Macedonian stormed past Jack Harrison on the overlap.
Harrison played in the left back and Alioski's precise cutback picked out Bamford who converted from close range.
Alioski was quickly back on the attack after the restart but was left chasing Bale as Spurs looked to counter only for Bale's heavy touch to carry the ball out for a throw.
Alioski's man to man marking job on Bale was then illustrated to the maximum degree as the winger ran to the opposite flank from a Spurs attack, briefly leaving Alioski at right back.
Offensively, another decent pass from the left followed but this time to Mateusz Klich was not controlled by the Pole.
Marcelo Bielsa's first substitution in taking of Tyler Roberts then led to a change for Alioski as Raphinha was brought on to play the left wing role and Harrison switched to the right as Stuart Dallas went into centre midfield.
Alioski's strong game continued and the North Macedonian international sent in a terrific low cross in the 62nd minute.
Strong defending to clear a Spurs free-kick followed and Alioski then looked on moments later as Bale's afternoon was done.
The Welsh star was taken off for Lucas Moura which meant a new challenge with 23 minutes left.
Moura often took up a more central position but Alioski stuck to his new man before deciding to try and race out to block a Serge Aurier shot which Meslier tipped over after an Alioski deflection.
A headed clearance to a Giovani Lo Celso cross followed - either side of twice being fouled by Moura.
Spurs had ten minutes to bag an equaliser but Alioski was proving a huge problem and produced a thumping clearance to another cross.
Seconds later, he had raced to the other end of the field as part of a Leeds counter.
In the 84th minute, Alioski then nicked the ball off Moura on the edge of the box and the interception ultimately started the move that led to Rodrigo scoring United's third.
Even then, the energetic Alioski kept on hassling and running until the end as part of a fine display for a player who remains out of contract in the summer.
Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa said on Thursday that he would be happy if Alioski stayed and signed a new deal - and Saturday's display was a huge statement in advertising his talents.
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Thank you Laura Collins