One foot at Wembley; Jamie Shack attack and the Kemar Roofe or Patrick Bamford quandary - Leeds United Talking Points

AFTER seeing Leeds United beat Derby County for the third time this season, Lee Sobot looks at the key talking points from Saturday evening's 1-0 success at Pride Park in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg.

Sunday, 12th May 2019, 6:51 pm
WINNER: Leeds United striker Kemar Roofe tucks away the only goal of the game in Saturday evening's Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Derby County. Picture by Tony Johnson.

One foot at Wembley but Champions League caution

Derby are no Liverpool or Tottenham but nevertheless, last week's crazy events in the Champions League showed that even three-goal cushions can soon be reversed in a second leg.

Yet taking any sort of positive result at Pride Park was always going to leave Leeds as very strong favourites to progress to the Championship play-offs final and the Whites are now no bigger than 1-8 and as short as 1-16 to book their ticket to Wembley.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A one-goal advantage is clearly a very slender one but United's performance was arguably just as important as the victory.

There were questions over whether or not Leeds could return to their brilliant best on the back of three very disappointing displays in their last four games yet Marcelo Bielsa's Whites responded in style.

Surviving the predictable spell of Derby pressure in the opening stages was always going to prove key but from there on in Leeds were dominant with 56 per cent of possession and 12 attempts at goal compared to Derby's seven with three on target and crucially none for the Rams.

Whatever Frank Lampard thought, referee Craig Pawson was clearly correct in reversing his penalty decision and in any case Fikayo Tomori was lucky not to be sent off for a high, two-footed challenge on Jamie Shackleton, even if Mateusz Klich was also arguably lucky for leaning his head towards Tomori in the 87th minute.

A yellow card for that means there can be no further punishment.

Overall, Leeds were well in control and very worthy winners with Bielsa's Whites now 7-1 up against Derby from their three meetings so far this term, all of which have resulted in Whites victories.

Nobody is counting any chickens but based on what was witnessed on Saturday evening, another Whites success looks likely on Wednesday evening when even a draw would do.

In short, Leeds just look to have Derby's number and with Villa 2-1 up following their first leg against West Brom who now have Dwight Gayle banned, everything is already starting to point towards the much predicted Leeds-Villa final on the Bank Holiday Monday at the end of May, not that West Brom or Derby will see it quite that way yet and we all know that football can be a very unpredicatble, funny old game.

It should be remembered that Leeds were long odds-on to seal automatic promotion needing just ten points from a final 12 with a decent looking run-in and we all know how that ended after just one draw from those last four games.

It means that nothing can be taken for granted but United are now very much in pole position to set up a scenario in which 90 minutes of football at Wembley - God forbid extra time and penalties - will decide whether it is Premier League or Championship next term.

Gaetano Berardi to the rescue again

There are few more popular players than United's hard as nails Swiss defender Berardi who was again called into action with talisman Swede Pontus Jansson missing the Rams clash with an ankle injury.

Jansson's absence could have been a huge blow yet Berardi again stepped in at centre-back with another superb display for a defender who is best recognised as a right back.

Bielsa is not sure if Jansson will be back for Wednesday night's second leg and having the Swede back available would obviously be a boost but with Berardi in such good form, either way Leeds are in safe hands and their cause will be further boosted if Derby forward Martyn Waghorn again misses out with injury, as looks likely.

Without him and arguably even with him, the Rams seem to have little answer to United's defence.

Jamie Shackleton grabs his chance

There have been strong calls for some time for 19-year-old Shackleton to be handed more of a chance due to the huge promise the teen has shown in his 22 previous outings so far this season with 15 of those from the bench.

Adam Forshaw pulling a hamstring in the 23rd minute finally handed Shackleton his opportunity in what it is after all his preferred position despite having previously often been used as a right back.

Versatile, but above that extremely talented with Shackleton bringing plenty of pace and energy to United's midfield and unfortunate not to walk away with the man of the match award.

United's Academy has produced some absolute gems over the years but Shackleton looks like being up there with the best of them.

With the likes of Shackleton around hailing from an under-23s set up that have just won their league, the future at Leeds is extremely bright and United now have two games more to navigate to ensure that future as from next season is in the Premier League.

The Roofe is back on fire and what happens with Patrick Bamford?

The story of Leeds United's season has been typified by two factors - mass injuries and missing too many chances in front of goal, a point to which Bielsa often refers to.

United's head coach admitted in his pre-match press conference that Leeds had been needing 12 chances to score one goal in their last four games, clearly not acceptable for a team eyeing the Premier League.

With no room for error in the play-offs, it is imperative that United take their chances in this end of season four-team shoot out and Roofe did just that with a clinical finish to Jack Harrison's superb cross in the 55th minute.

Roofe still looked a bit rusty in the previous weekend's 3-2 loss at Ipswich despite having chances but Saturday was much more like it and his Pride Park winner will have done wonders for confidence.

That's now 15 goals for the season for Roofe despite three spells out injured and Bielsa now has a decision to make with Patrick Bamford back from suspension for the second leg and Forshaw likely to still be missing.

Roofe can always be dropped into the no 10 role which could perhaps see Mateusz Klich shifted further back but Klich seems well-suited to the no 10 role and Roofeis quite clearly best suited to playing upfront.

With Shackleton excelling, Harrison producing a fine display out wide and Kalvin Phillips again impressive as part of a midfield in which Pablo Hernandez is the first name on the team-sheet, it would be very surprising if Bielsa made any changes for Wednesday unless Jansson is back.

Berardi and skipper Liam Cooper were also excellent against the Rams and special praise should also go to full-backs Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas who also had excellent games as part of a back line in which Kiko Casilla looked assured throughout and thankfully took the ball when producing one of his hair-raising charges outside of his box to clear in the latter stages.

Ups and downs as ever in a real rollercoaster of a season but Leeds are looking good and very much on course for the play-off final.

Still, not there yet and first of all United need to finish the job of the semi-finals on Wednesday evening when Elland Road will be absolutely rocking.