Few complaints as Leeds United 'stumble along' into seventh heaven with Hull City win - Graham Smyth's Verdict
Patrick Bamford spoke of Leeds United ‘stumbling along’ in the lead up to last night’s clash with Hull City and it was another classic case of picking up three points and a clean sheet without being at their best.
There was an element of fortune in the first goal of the 2-0 win and their second came seconds after a golden chance at the other end of the pitch, but ultimately, their quality told.
The vision and ability of Pablo Hernandez and the pace and delivery of Helder Costa forced Jordy De Wijs’ second-half own goal, before another lightning-quick counter-attack brought a second, Gjanni Alioski on the scoresheet once more.
If Leeds United continue to stumble their way to wins and clean sheets, there will be no complaints from the top-flight starved fanbase.
Earlier in the season they were dominating teams and not getting what they deserved, but now they’re getting the points sometimes despite their performance.
It’s a good habit, a winning habit.
This was number seven in a row, and took them back to the top of the table, continuing the toe-to-toe battle with West Brom, who play Wigan tonight.
And it laid to rest a ghost of the 2018/19 season, memories of Hull coming to Elland Road in December and springing a surprise by snapping Bielsa’s first seven-game run of victories.
This time round the first half was almost brilliant from Leeds. Almost everything they did was good, up until a point.
The second half wasn’t as good at all, Hull City making life really uncomfortable yet it was after the break that Leeds went and won the game. It is a funny old game but no one in orange was laughing at full-time.
Early on in the Yorkshire derby, Leeds had most of the possession and when they didn’t have it, they won it back quickly and in good positions.
Jarrod Bowen had the look of a man brimming with confidence when he took on his first shot of the game, although the effort did not match his growing reputation, trundling well wide of Kiko Casilla’s goal. That was as close as the 15-goal winger got to adding to his impressive 2019/10 tally.
At the other end Bamford showed the side of his game he has improved so much when he muscled a marker to the ground near halfway, turning to put Leeds on a two-on-one attack, but he butchered the chance by failing to play in Mateusz Klich and allowing Hull to get bodies back.
Both sides hit the side netting from corners and Helder Costa, who started the game with real menace, put a cross on the head of Bamford, who glanced wide.
Leeds took over completely as the half developed, playing some quick, slick football that looked good but lacked an end product.
Luke Ayling roamed forward to good effect, getting to the byline in one move but failing to pick out a white shirt with his pull-back.
Hernandez linked up well with Jack Harrison on the other flank and sidestepped a defender with a deft touch, giving himself room for a shot that curled, but not enough, missing the far post by some distance.
Ben White then stepped up into the play, somehow drifting between two players to break the Hull midfield line, Harrison taking over and swinging in a cross that was spilled by Long.
There was an early warning in the second half that things might not continue to go Leeds’ way, Tom Eaves finding enough room in the box to squeeze through a deflected shot, Kiko Casilla saving.
By the hour mark, Hull City were having a real go, turning a little spell into a worrying spell for Leeds.
Hearts were in mouths when Leonardo Lopes got into the area and went down under a little nudge, referee David Webb – in a good position – awarding no more than a corner.
Leeds weren’t so slick on the ball, Kalvin Phillips making rare errors that allowed Hull to create danger, but when the visitors pushed forward, the Whites looked to get in
behind. Hernandez’ ball over the top for Bamford allowed him to pull it back, Harrison’s shot saved.
The goal came soon after, Costa exploiting the space behind the Hull defence and sprinting onto a perfectly weighted Hernandez ball, before whipping in a great cross that Jordy De Wijs could only play past his own keeper.
On a night when the final ball proved so problematic for so long, it was the kind of delivery that can decide matches.
The first goal, unlike at Huddersfield on Saturday, did not immediately change the course of the game – Hull kept at it, Jackson Irvine finding himself in an unusal amount of space on the edge of the box but spooning over.
Then came the game-changing sequence that showcased Casilla’s importance and Leeds’ ability to turn defence into attack in devastating style.
Eaves got free at the back post and his header was goalbound until the Spaniard intervened and, seconds later, it was 2-0, United flying down the right flank, Klich pulling the ball back for Bamford who stuck the post, Alioski putting in the rebound.
Hull stopper George Long took a knock as Leeds scored and his treatment prolonged the game but nothing could alter the result.
In fact it almost got worse, Alioski displaying the ability he has shown with regularity of late and pinging a ball over the top and onto the feet of Bamford, who very nearly flicked it past Long.
It was not to be Bamford’s night, not as a goalscorer, but as he said himself before the game, he knows he can contribute even when he doesn’t find the net and he knows his worth to this team. It was evident in his hold-up play, a key part of Leeds’ game management in the six minutes of stoppage time, ensuring there was to be no sting in the tail, guaranteeing yet another clean sheet and a chance to give Bielsa his best ever run of United results when Cardiff arrive at Elland Road on Saturday.