Graham Smyth's Verdict: Pretty football gives way to gritty graft in Leeds United's win over West Brom

Nothing good comes easy and Leeds United's 1-0 win over Championship leaders West Brom was anything but simple.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 7:23 am
Patrick Bamford led the line, defending from the front for Leeds (Pic: Getty)

Pretty football gave Leeds a winning position and good honest graft allowed them to keep hold of it.

READ: More analysis of Tuesday's game from our sister paperA first half that featured the kind of attacking play they've become known was followed by a second half of defending, against the best away side to feature at Elland Road this season.

West Brom did to Leeds, in spells, what Leeds ordinarily do to everyone else.

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They got on the ball, prodded and poked, look for holes and sometimes found them.

But Marcelo Bielsa's men held firm in the face of sustained pressure, returning to form in satisfying, if nerve-wracking, style.

Defending from the front was key and in Patrick Bamford Leeds had a man willing to do the hard yards.

He chased everything, went toe-to-toe with his markers and gave his side a breather at big moments.

Mateusz Klich in action (Pic: Getty)

In his head coach's words, he showed 'great spirit' for the men in white.

There were no sparkling individual performances, it was a result earned by a collective.

It felt like a big game. It sounded like one too. Every tackle felt contentious, such was the roar that went up each time a Leeds player went to ground, either in search of the ball or put there by an opponent.

Leeds turned it on early, breaking from the clutches of West Brom's press in their own half, Stuart Dallas pinging the ball left to Gjanni Alioski, Jack Harrison taking over and feeding

Ben White and Leeds held out despite sustained pressure from the Baggies (Pic: Getty)

Mateusz Klich whose stabbed effort was saved at his near post by Sam Johnstone.

Both sides showed they had pace to burn.

Leeds' fleet-footed midfielder Jamie Shackleton lost the ball and made instant amends, turning defence into attack, starting a counter that ended with a final ball for Klich cut out.

When a Stuart Dallas' shot from the edge of the area appeared to be blocked by a hand, West Brom took the opportunity to break up field while Leeds protested David Coote's decision not to award a penalty, Kiko Casilla saving Hal Robson-Kanu's tame effort.

That became the pattern of the first half, Leeds attacking, West Brom counter attacking.

Three yellow cards for the Baggies in the space of three minutes raised the temperature inside Elland Road and the noise levels, ex Leeds man Kyle Bartley in particular provoking the ire of home fans with a wild lunge in the direction of Bamford.

There were worrying scenes for the home side when captain Liam Cooper pulled up with an injury and had to be replaced by Gaetano Berardi after 34 minutes, but concern soon turned to jubilation as Leeds took the lead.

Klich, Costa and Shackleton were all involved before Jack Harrison twisted and turned to create space in the area, space filled by the arriving Gjanni Alioski, his low shot taking a nick off a defender on its way in.

It should have been two in first half stoppage time and would have been, had it not been for a double-save from Johnstone.

A Harrison shot found its way through to Bamford, five yards out, and he could only find the keeper with his touch, Johnstone leaping up to dive back down at Costa's feet and leave most inside Elland Road with their mouths open.

Bielsa sent on former Baggies man Tyler Roberts at the break, replacing the injured Shackleton in midfield.

The Argentine later lamented the decision he was forced to take, so impressed was he with the youngster's first half performance.

Roberts, as it turned out, would last only 25 minutes himself before the way the second half developed forced Bielsa into another decision he didn't want to take, Luke Ayling coming on for the substitute.

It wasn't as free flowing a start to the second half, neither team getting to grips with the ball until Kalvin Phillips' went direct to spring Costa free on the right, the winger cutting into the area but losing his footing before he could shoot.

Leeds were never allowed to relax with the single goal lead, West Brom's Brazilian playmaker Matheus Pereira firing a couple of warning shots across their bows before the hour mark.

First he zipped the ball across the face of goal, Matt Phillips unable to get a final touch, then his 25-yard free-kick bent just wide of the post, Casilla a spectator as the ball flashed by.

His opposite number was at it again when Costa set his sights with a 16-yard volley, Johnstone beating it away, a defender blocking Klich's follow up.

Pereira, lauded by Baggies fans for the way he has started the season, presented a problem for Leeds throughout and Casilla had to be sharp to get down and save when the midfielder tried his luck after escaping the clutches of Phillips.

Luke Ayling made his long-awaited return from injury with 16 remaining, replacing half-time substitute Roberts and taking the right-back spot, Dallas moving into the middle.

Leeds were forced to drop deep and dig in, yet still had chances to make life so much more comfortable.

Harrison had space and time for a shot that would have sealed the win, Johnstone saving yet again, Klich's rebound effort blocked.

For all their time in the Leeds half, West Brom couldn't forge another clear cut chance, Kenneth Zohore blasting over from an acute angle in stoppage time their only sight of goal before Elland Road erupted at the full-time whistle, Leeds fans letting out a roar that was as much satisfaction as it was relief.

Leeds have climbed back on top in the Championship, the hard way.