Leeds United 2 Derby County 0: Whites sweep aside Rams to stake claim at the top of the Championship

Leeds United winger Jack Harrison celebrates.
Leeds United winger Jack Harrison celebrates.
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Leeds United produced a scintillating 2-0 victory on Friday night as Marcelo Bielsa's side swept Derby County aside to go five points clear at the top of the Championship.

After much of the build-up had been dominated by 'spygate' the game needed no introduction or extra bite as a sold out Elland Road roared out the teams.

Leeds were boosted by the involvement of club captain Liam Cooper, who was returning for the first time since knee surgery in early December, and Pablo Hernandez who had been a major doubt with a thigh issue ahead of the clash.

Frank Lampard had no such luck with top goalscorer Harry Wilson as he missed out with a hip injury.

The evening got off to a ferocious start as Gjanni Alioski barged his way into the Rams penalty box in the opening minute only to be brought down by Andre Wisdom.

Referee Andy Davis pointed to the spot with the home crowd celebrating but the linesman's flag was up to deny Leeds a near-perfect beginning.

Cooper then fired over from underneath the crossbar from a Hernandez corner when it looked easier to score as Marcelo Bielsa's men pushed on.

Leeds had barely let the visitors breath in the opening 20 minutes and the pressure finally told as Jack Clarke produced some magic on his first Championship start.

The winger collected the ball on the right and turned Craig Bryson the wrong way before firing a low ball into the box which was dispatched cleverly by a Kemar Roofe flick for the 14th goal of his season so far.

Clarke then dragged another effort wide of the mark before Adam Forshaw combined with Jack Harrison to force Scott Carson into quick action.

United refused to take their foot off the gas as Forshaw fired another warning shot which flew inches wide of the post from well outside of the box.

Derby finally had their first effort on goal through Tom Lawrence but the midfielder failed to test Bailey Peacock-Farrell as he fired over the bar from the edge of the box.

George Evans was then lucky to only see yellow as Pontus Jansson looked to break across the halfway line just before the interval as the game began to see a number of heated challenges.

Much like the first half Leeds came out firing once more and immediately doubled their advantage after the break.

Clarke again wreaked havoc down the right as his delivery was tipped by Scott Carson and fell to Alioski at the back post. The winger poked the ball across the box with Jack Harrison on hand to smash the loose ball into the net unchallenged.

Elland Road's volume continued to rise as Leeds turned up the heat on Derby who failed to live with the pace being set by the league leaders.

There was to be one moment of panic though as substitute David Nugent looked to be in the clear but the onrushing Peacock-Farrell came to the rescue as he met the striker outside of his area to clear the danger.

Leeds continued their unrelenting attack as Jansson headed over the bar from a corner before substitute Jamie Shackleton fired wide from a tight angle as United continued to knock the ball around with ease.

Derby looked to have a real opening as a deflecting shot fell to Martyn Waghorn who had been on the pitch a matter of seconds but his effort was poked wide of the mark with the offside flag raised.

Lawrence and Nugent were once again held to long-distance efforts as Leeds cruised to victory which saw they move five points clear of Norwich City with the Canaries in action against West Brom on Saturday.

Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Alioski, Cooper (c), Jansson, Forshaw, Klich, Clarke, Harrison, Hernandez, Roofe. Subs: Huffer, Davis, Halme, Shackleton, Gotts, Stevens, Roberts