Illan Meslier's rapid progress, Liam Cooper's proud moment and history-making Patrick Bamford - Leeds United Talking Points

AFTER seeing Leeds United record their first away win back in the Premier League, Lee Sobot takes a look at a few key talking points following Sunday's 1-0 derby success at Sheffield United.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 11:44 am
Updated Monday, 28th September 2020, 11:50 am
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Leeds United's Jack Harrison and Rodrigo look on as Patrick Bamford heads home an 88th-minute winner in Sunday's Premier League Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Goalkeeping heroics and Illan Meslier

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa always knew that Leeds United would not be able to keep up the impressive efficiency seen in this season's first two games.

Six shots at goal and three on target resulting in three goals at Liverpool.

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PROUD: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper keeps ahead of Sheffield United forward Oliver Burke in his 200th game for the club. Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images.

Ten shots at goal and seven on target against Fulham producing four goals.

Bielsa knew full well that on another day conceding three against Fulham might well have meant his men leaving the clash against the Cottagers with nothing instead of the full three-point haul.

United's head coach then put it very simply when speaking before Sunday's Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United.

"We hope to score as many as we did in the last two games but concede less."

PREMIER LEAGUE DEBUT: For Leeds United winger Ian Poveda. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images.

Six less as a game's overall package with Sunday's derby at Bramall Lane showing clearly that Leeds clean sheets are just as crucial as United's free-flowing attacking football and ability to create chances at will.

Bielsa's Whites again created plenty of goalscoring opportunities against the Blades but the efficiency that proved a feature of Leeds' performances against Liverpool and Fulham this time eluded them.

Leeds were far from guilty of missing sitters against the Blades but there were no shortage of opportunities with 17 shots at goal and nine on target.

Despite proving United's match-winner with his 88th-minute header, Patrick Bamford felt he should have scored in the first half when sending a header over the bar.

Leeds, though, were essentially denied by fine goalkeeping from Blades summer recruit Aaron Ramsdale who pulled off a series of excellent saves and in particular to deny Stuart Dallas in the first half and Helder Costa in the second.

Yet it was very much the same and more at the other end of the pitch with Leeds' first clean sheet of the season and tremendous efforts of 20-year-old French stopper Illan Meslier proving the difference between taking three points and none.

There are naturally questions raised of any 'keeper that concedes seven goals in two games yet there was little Meslier could do about the four leaked in against defending champions Liverpool who not surprisingly caused chaos given their front three.

The troubles that a newly-promoted Fulham side caused were rather more concerning, even allowing for Aleksandar Mitrovic's qualities, but it's not like any of the three Cottagers goals came from Meslier howlers, even though the Frenchman might have done better for Mitrovic's headed second.

Yet it should be remembered that Meslier is still only 20 years old and that Sunday's outing at Bramall Lane was still only his 14th outing in the English game.

It was also by some way his best and at a time when there are huge question marks about the likes of Chelsea custodian Kepa and Manchester United's David de Gea, Leeds appear blessed to have an absolute gem in between the sticks and one who is looking a snip at £5m.

Meslier's two saves to deny first John Lundstram and then George Baldock in the first half were both outstanding and more good stops arrived after the break plus an extremely brave piece of goalkeeping to dive at the feet of Baldock.

In just his 14th outing in the English game and still only his 44th in professional football, Meslier was superb - the difference between losing and winning - with Bamford then ensuring that a one-point haul was turned to three with his 88th minute finish.

Bielsa knew it was unrealistic to expect Leeds to be as efficient as they were in their first two games.

United were not helped by the brilliance of Ramsdale but nevertheless the Whites could have been more clinical against the Blades.

But somewhere in between ought to have the Whites heading for a very decent finish with a 'keeper like Meslier in nets who, scarily, is surely still some way short of reaching the peak of his powers.

Patrick Bamford makes history

Whites striker Bamford admitted during the summer that he felt he had a point to prove as a Premier League striker having netted just the once as a top-flight forward over 27 outings with Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich City and Middlesbrough between August 2015 and May 2017.

That one goal came for the Riversiders in a 2-1 loss at home to Southampton with Boro already down and for Bamford three seasons of Championship football then followed.

Bamford's work rate and hold up play under Bielsa at Leeds has never been doubted with the striker fitting Bielsa's way of playing perfectly but Bamford and in fairness Leeds overall as a team were guilty of squandering far too many chances in looking to secure promotion from English football's second tier.

With promotion finally sealed, there were then naturally question marks as to whether Bamford would be able to produce the necessary goods for Leeds back in the Premier League and whether he could be United's main striker upon their top-flight return.

Yet three games into the season Bamford has made club history as United's first ever player to score in their first three games as a top-flight player at the start of a new top tier campaign with the 27-year[old actually bettering the feat of Mick Jones that was mentioned during he commentary for Sunday's derby on BT Sport.

Legendary former striker Jones scored in United's first three games of the 1968-69 top-flight campaign in which Don Revie's Whites were crowned champions and Bamford became the first player since then to achieve that feat after a 52-year gap.

Yet unlike Bamford, Jones already had top-flight experience for the Whites having been signed from Sheffield United in 1967 which leaves Bamford as a history maker for the Whites.

The forward's overall play was once again excellent even though he might have done better with a decent opportunity in the first half when sending a header over the bar.

But the striker made no mistake from Jack Harrison's precise delivery in the 88th minute as the forward added to his strikes in the games against Liverpool and Fulham to take his tally to three from three.

On current form, Bamford simply has to start in the no 9 role meaning record signing Rodrigo will have to play somewhere else across the front line in the current system.

After a disappointing 45 minutes in the no 10 role from Rodrigo in the previous weekend's 4-3 loss at Fulham, the record signing excelled in the position during the second-half against the Blades after coming on for Tyler Roberts who failed to get going having been given the nod to start in the absence of the still injured Pablo Hernandez.

Hernandez is still facing another two weeks out and so will definitely miss Saturday's hosting of Manchester City though there will be another slot up for grabs with City loanee Jack Harrison unable to play against his parent club due to Premier League rules.

Another Premier League debut

Leeds are naturally handing plenty of players their Premier League debuts upon the club's return to the country's top division for the first time in 16 years and former Manchester City winger Ian Poveda became the latest Whites player to enjoy such a feat when coming on as a 66th-minute substitute for Helder Costa who could not quite excel in the same way as in United's first two games.

After being forced to be patient following his arrival from City back in January, Poveda has now started to make quick progress at Leeds with four outings at the back end of last season including one start followed by another start this season in the EFL Cup clash at home to Hull City.

The winger proved United's stand out player against the Tigers on a disappointing night for the Whites as Leeds exited the competition on penalties.

Eleven days later, Poveda was then handed his Premier League debut at Bramall Lane and there was plenty to like about the 20-year-old's display with Poveda keen to get on the ball and offering plenty of pace and endeavour.

He'll have a hard job shifting Costa or Harrison from the starting line up but both are vastly more experienced and immediately speaking Leeds will be without two front men big hitters for Saturday's clash against Manchester City with Hernandez injured and Harrison ineligible to play.

It might well be that Bielsa starts both Rodrigo and Roberts against City and plays one of them out wide while Gjanni Alioski is another option but Poveda certainly has a chance of now making a full Premier League debut against his former side.

Liam Cooper's proud milestone

Plenty of history was made at Bramall Lane by way of a first top-flight derby between the two teams since 1994, Leeds' first away win back in the Premier League and then Poveda's top-flight debut followed by Bamford's feat.

Yet with the minimum of fanfare or fuss, Whites skipper Liam Cooper also took in his 200th game for the club and produced a fine display at centre-back in his second game alongside summer recruit Robin Koch and also Luke Ayling as part of a back three with Stuart Dallas then excelling in midfield.

United's defence were obviously helped massively by a stunning performance from Meslier but Cooper, Koch and Ayling all had good games with a clean sheet the perfect response to conceding seven in their first two games.

In what was still only his third game for Leeds, Koch was probably the stand out defender with the German producing some excellent tackles and blocks.

New signing Diego Llorente failed to make the bench against the Blades having only signed in midweek and it will be fascinating to see how and when the Spanish international is integrated into the team.

But as far as Sunday's clash at Bramall Lane was concerned it was job done for United's defence and captain Cooper can take a bow after joining the 200 club at Leeds.

It has been some journey since he signed from Chesterfield for £600,000 back in August 2014.

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Thank you Laura Collins