Leeds United clash mirrors Championship campaign until intervention of Spanish magician after Whites unveil new Polish star
IT was beginning to mirror last season.
Swashbuckling, free-flowing, attacking football, beautiful on the eye.
An early lead and the prospect of comfortably easing away only to hit the buffers after squandering chances and being hampered by defensive lapses in concentration – and injuries; Kemar Roofe and Mateusz Bogusz being the victims this time.
Yet forever United’s saviour, Pablo Hernandez had other ideas with the Spanish magician leaving it late to ensure his side’s pre-season tour of Australia ended with a bang.
Learn to take their chances and there will be every chance of a similar perfect conclusion to the forthcoming Championship campaign with Leeds also possessing a new star on their hands in 17-year-old Pole Bogusz.
With most of the club’s internationals and summer signings still back at Thorp Arch, there had been talk of Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa flying back to England after Wednesday’s showpiece friendly against Manchester United and giving the clash against Markus Babbel’s A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers a miss.
Bielsa opted to stay Down Under and his Whites side put the Argentinian through the wringer after Bogusz handed the Whites a ninth-minute lead.
Displaying attractive, natural and instinctive free-flowing attacking football, Leeds looked like taking their hosts to the cleaners after going 1-0 up inside ten minutes.
As it was, the combination of the post, some good goalkeeping and some wayward finishing meant United held only a one-goal cushion at the break.
A game that could and should have been done and dusted was all square in the 48th minute as Yeboah returned to haunt the Whites. Not Ghanaian ace Tony, but Kwame, who latched onto a fantastic through ball before poking his effort past Kiko Casilla
Friendly or otherwise, Bielsa was seen pacing up and down the touchline and deep in thought as if Saturday’s occasion was a play-off semi-final. Matters then looked to be going seriously pear-shaped as first Roofe and then Bogusz limped off injured.
Yet unlike last season, this time there was a fairy-tale conclusion with the evergreen Hernandez taking matters into his own hands by cutting inside and beating five men before producing a rising finish of which Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud.
It provided the perfect conclusion and proved a good workout – injuries permitting – and another game that highlighted the need for United to maximise the full potential of their brilliant Bielsa-ball football by being more clinical in front of goal. Hernandez will not always be there to save them.
Leeds had opportunities even before Bogusz’s ninth-minute opener with Hernandez seeing an effort tipped wide before blazing over the bar.
Bogusz then showed composure not befitting a 17-year-old when receiving a fine pass from the lively Jack Harrison before unleashing an impressive drive into the top left corner.
Signed from Ruch Chorzow in January, Bogusz arrived with a glowing reputation at youth level with United’s star Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich insisting Bogusz would one day be a better player than him.
The central attacking midfielder caused chaos with his pace, endeavour and clever instinctive passes.
The Pole almost bagged a second goal just before the half-hour mark when seeing a rising effort deflected just wide though that attempt came after two good chances for the hosts which again raised question marks over United’s defence.
Yeboah could only slide a good chance wide under pressure from the excellent Stuart Dallas. Then Gaetano Berardi was on hand to clear an effort from Bruce Kamau off the line.
Then came the Leeds onslaught with chance after chance going begging as Patrick Bamford headed over before Dallas saw two attempts blocked.
Another attempt by Bogusz was deflected wide before Harrison was released via a lovely flick from Roofe only to curl his effort just wide with the outside of his boot. Bielsa looked unimpressed.
Leeds then went even closer as Bogusz skinned the Wanderers defence before setting up Roofe, who was denied by the post.
Bamford squandered arguably the best chance of the lot when turning brilliantly in only to balloon a shot wide.
It meant only a one-goal lead heading into the interval and, within three minutes of the restart, Wanderers were level with Keanu Baccus laying on a perfect through ball for Yeboah, who would have done Tony proud the way he clipped the ball past Casilla.
Leeds were immediately back on the attack but after Bamford saw a shot blocked, a grimacing Roofe limped off to be replaced by young winger Jordan Stevens as Hernandez moved from the right flank to a more central role.
Hernandez quickly began to pepper the goal but it was Bamford feeling the frustration with the striker denied by a fantastic reflex save by Daniel Lopar from six yards out.
Dallas and the promising Stevens both went close before Bogusz also hobbled off injured to be replaced by another youngster in Clarke Oduor who squirmed a good chance wide.
Bamford’s exasperating day continued as a fine shot from the edge of the area was tipped behind for a corner.
When Hernandez then saw a rasping effort in the ‘92nd minute’ crash back off the crossbar, that looked to be that.
Yet Hernandez knew the final 60 seconds presented one last chance to unlock the Wanderers defence.
The Spanish magician proceeded to race into the area from the right by beating four men before powering a rising drive into the top left corner.
This time, that really was that with Leeds rewarded with a triumph that their impressive football richly deserved.
Making the most clearly holds the key to doing the same next term.
Western Sydney Wanderers: Lopar, Elrich, Mourdoukoutas, McGowan, Wilmering, Schwegler, Baccus, Majewski, Yeboah, Kamau, Duke. Subs: Grozos, Cordier, Monge, Russell, Suman, Pagden, Constable, Adam, Carluccio.
Leeds United: Casilla, Douglas, Cooper, Berardi, Dallas, Phillips, Bogusz (Oduor 72), Hernandez, Harrison, Roofe (Stevens 50), Bamford. Unused substitutes: Miazek, Hosannah, Forshaw.