Spotlight on Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier who is quickly justifying the hype

ILLAN MESLIER was handed extremely short notice ahead of his Leeds United league debut but took next to no time to settle in for a near faultless display in goal at Hull City.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 1st March 2020, 4:50 pm

Meslier only discovered he would be making his Whites Championship debut on Friday evening when the FA opted to announce at 7.30pm that Whites 'keeper Kiko Casilla would be facing an eight-game ban.

For Leeds and Meslier, the timing was clearly extremely unhelpful with Meslier given less than a day's notice to adjust the mindset knowing he would now be starting in Saturday's clash at the KCOM.

Signed with a glowing reputation on a season-long loan from Ligue 1 side Lorient in the summer, the France under-20s 'keeper's previous sole outing for Leeds had come in the third round FA Cup clash at Arsenal.

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COMMANDING: Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier in Saturday's 4-0 win at Hull City. Picture by Tony Johnson.

The teen excelled in that display as part of a 1-0 defeat on a grand stage yet Saturday's encounter actually provided a grander stage in terns of the importance of the fixture with Leeds just 11 games away from potential promotion to the Premier League.

Yet Meslier barely put a foot wrong at the KCOM with the six-foot-six stopper immediately looking confident and assured and a commanding presence in both size and stature.

Meslier's excellent shotstopping has been a clear feature of his impressive displays for United's under-23s - particularly in saving penalties - yet the Frenchman was only tested by two shots on target by Hull.

Neither were particularly threatening with the custodian saving and holding both.

Substitute Norbert Balogh's strike midway through the second half almost proved more problematic but the effort thumped back off the post.

It was hard to tell if Meslier had it covered but he looked close.

But the Frenchman has also impressed with his passing ability for United's under-23s and that feature again shone through as United again continued to play out from the back.

Meslier had 48 touches of the ball for 5.3 per cent of the overall play and a passing success rate of 73 per cent.

Unsurprisingly given his height, his aerial game also looked strong with Meslier confidently gathering any crosses that came his way and alert to tip a looping cross in the second-half that could have dipped under the bar away for a corner.

A deflected shot that was spun high into the air in the first half was also plucked with ease by Meslier out of the sky.

Tyler Roberts was effusive in his praise for Meslier afterwards and Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa also saluted the 'keeper who he said was "calm, confident, took risks, was good in the aerial play and gave us the feeling he is confident."

Asked about Meslier last week - with the threat of a lengthy Casilla ban clearly looming - Bielsa left no doubt as to the esteem the Frenchman was held in.

"Honestly for a long time I didn’t see a young player like him with resources like him," said United's head coach.

Praise indeed and while tougher tests than Hull will await praise that is already understandable.