Much more to Rodrigo's display in Leeds United's victory at Southampton than glorious assist
RECORD signing Rodrigo finally came back into the Leeds United starting line up for Tuesday evening's clash at Southampton and excelled with one of the assists of the season.
All eyes were on Kiko Casilla as the Spaniard was handed just a second Premier League start in goal but the focus also fell on the opposite end of the pitch for Leeds.
Rodrigo has endured a stop-start season due to injuries and coronavirus but was finally handed another chance to shine from the off in the no 10 role behind striker Patrick Bamford
Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa has fielded several of his players as United's attacking midfielder this season and Mateusz Klich was the man to fill the role in Saturday's clash at Burnley.
Klich scored a fine opening goal in the 4-0 victory and Rodrigo was brought on shortly after the break but this time as a centre forward as Bamford was replaced.
A terrific performance capped with a quickfire brace followed and Rodrigo always looked likely to start at Southampton and did so but as a no 10 behind Bamford.
The question was how would the two gel together and would there be signs of a strong partnership developing?
But Leeds were unable to show much at all in an attacking sense during the opening exchanges at St Mary's as the Saints dominated to start with.
For Rodrigo, that meant early focus on defensive duties and the 30-year-old produced an important header to clear the danger from a James Ward-Prowse free kick in just the second minute.
The Spaniard finally got the ball in an attacking position near the left touchline just before the quarter hour mark but was quickly attended to as Leeds won a throw and then a corner which came to nothing.
More chasing of the ball and defending then followed as United struggled to get going though Rodrigo then received possession just outside the Saints box and attempted to play in Stuart Dallas only to see his pass blocked.
Moments later, Rodrigo's simple pass to Jack Harrison on the left flank led to United's first opportunity as Stuart Dallas fired wide.
The Spaniard was beginning to get going and then played a fine through ball for Raphinha who would have been through on goal but for a heavy first touch.
Rodrigo produced neat passes every time he received the ball. The problem was that he was not seeing enough of it.
After being picked out by Raphinha on the edge of the box in the 40th minute, Rodrigo worked space to unleash his first shot at goal which was curled over the bar and it proved his last real act of the half.
Bielsa kept things as they were from an attacking sense for the start of the second half and Rodrigo and Bamford combined brilliantly in the 50th minute when the Spaniard's sublime reverse pass picked out the Whites no 9 in the box.
Bamford was very wide and his effort from a tight angle was saved.
A rare loose pass from Rodrigo then followed when looking for Dallas in the 55th minute fas Leeds lost possession but the record signing produced another neat through pass for Bamford in the 65th minute only for Southampton to clear.
It was same again a few minutes later as a precise pass played in Raphinha but a dangerous situation was ended as Gjanni Alioski's powerful shot was saved.
But Rodrigo had been supplying such passes all game and one of them finally led to United taking the lead in the 71st minute.
It proved the pass of the night as the Spaniard played in Bamford with a beautiful reverse pass from long range and the Whites no 9 then brilliantly converted from a tight angle.
It proved Rodrigo's last contribution as the record signing was then replaced by Tyler Roberts who was given another go in the no 10 role with 12 minutes left.
Rodrigo did not look particularly chuffed to be coming off but can certainly be chuffed with his performance which yet again showed just what the forward is capable of, be it as a centre forward or a no 10.
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Thank you Laura Collins