Southampton 0-2 Leeds United - Luke Ayling on the wind up, on-pitch meetings and off-camera moments on a good day for Rodrigo
Leeds United appear determined to go out with a bang rather than a whimper in their return to the Premier League.
Despite poor first-half displays against both Burnley and Southampton, the Whites won both games to make it three in a row heading into the final outing at Elland Road.
The victory at St Mary’s was a little harder to come by. Here's the YEP conclusions after the 2-0 win.
Took a whack to the head, was denied a penalty but was not to be denied a goal. Sixteen for the season is a fantastic tally and he took this one really well.
The £27m man has arrived. His last two performances have reassured Leeds fans that it was indeed money well spent and suggested they could see a lot more from the Spaniard next season if he stays fit. His passing as a number 10 was terrific and his assist for Bamford capped another good display. With the Euros looming, he's doing all he can to make the Spain squad.
If anyone suggested his introduction to the field at St Mary’s was a decision taken out of pity by Marcelo Bielsa, they would have to fight most members of the Leeds squad. He's a much loved team-mate and according to Bielsa has been in fantastic nick. His performance was tidy, with the usual aggression he's become known for. A Premier League appearance is just reward for helping Leeds to get to the top flight.
What a difference it makes to have fans in the stadium. The 8,000 at St Mary's created an enjoyable atmosphere that seemed to spur their players on in the first half. It was so refreshing to hear chants, sarcastic cheers for wayward shots, superbly optimistic penalty appeals and all the emotions that accompany a competitive game. The sound of silence for the two goals was quite nice too.
That's twice he's managed to make a real game of it in the first half against Leeds before having the result taken away in the second half. His players seemed to run out of steam and ideas - they struggled to break down the Leeds backline and relied on shots from distance as the game went into its late stages.
Again. There must be good reason why Patrick Bamford was not awarded a penalty for Alex McCarthy's challenge but by punishing him for staying on his feet the message that was sent out to strikers is not one we need in the game.
Watching Kiko Casilla start and Gaetano Berardi come off the bench while he himself had to miss out on game time again must have been frustrating. It's been a frustrating season for the wizard and his time at Leeds looks destined to come to an end. All the niggling injuries and the time spent as an unused substitute is a cruel way for it to end but with his family back in Spain, it's hard not to see a one-way ticket home in his near future. The only hope is he gets on the pitch on Sunday to say a proper farewell to the fans.
Leeds regrouped and were finally able to start playing some football, finding men with passes and taking play to the Saints. Stuart Dallas, Rodrido and Pascal Struijk all played a part in finding the necessary passes to go from back to front.
The return of fans meant the return of a side of Luke Ayling we haven't often seen since March 2020. He was dishing out the Leeds salute, grinning at angry home fans and thoroughly relishing the exchanges.
The scenes in the first half weren't so cheerful for Ayling and co however. After a poor start a break in play allowed he, Stuart Dallas and Raphinha to convene a meeting of the right sided players to try and work out solutions to their problems. Gjanni Alioski was deep in conversation with Kiko Casilla, to whom Jack Harrison delivered a message from the bench. Presumably that was linked to his distribution because his next attempted pass was not to Alioski but a longer one to Harrison. It all remained quite frustrating for Leeds however and it showed. Bielsa animatedly told Bamford what he wanted and the striker had plenty to say in return.
All's well that ends well and both men were celebrating in the second half. Some frustration lingered for Raphinha however. The Brazilian was furious when Bamford didn't convert from his wonderful first-time ball over the top. He was furious when he himself couldn't score in stoppage time on a very promising break. He generally seems to exude fury on a regular basis.
When the full-time whistle went, Leeds didn't hang around. Their 9.30pm flight home made for a lightning quick press conference and before Bielsa had even sat down to talk to the media his players were rushing across the St Mary's pitch and out the door. In and out, three points, job done.
The football wasn't done however. A group of Saints staff members did battle in a game of their own that was just ad fiercely contested, albeit not quite to the same tempo.
A message from the Editor:
Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.
We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.
Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.
With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
Click here to subscribe.
For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.
Thank you Laura Collins