YEP Jury: Liam Cooper the inspiration as Leeds United finally get rub of the green

After a long trip down to Vicarage Road, made worse by Everton’s victory against Manchester United, our fans’ panel were ultimately smiling at full time as Leeds United dug deep to win 3-0 at Watford. Here are their thoughts on the game:

By YEP Sportsdesk
Monday, 11th April 2022, 7:36 am

DAVID WATKINS

Four games unbeaten at a crucial time of the season and it looks like we’ve just about reached the safety line. This wasn’t the greatest performance we’ve ever seen from Leeds but there were some welcome elements to it.

Leeds United pouncing on opposition errors and punishing them! Who’d have thought it? Hitting the target with half of our goal attempts and finding a clean sheet for only the fourth time in the league all season!

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Rodrigo celebrates after scoring Leeds United's second goal at Watford. Picture: Alex Morton/Getty Images.

Dare I mention one other factor that seems to have come along with the arrival of Jesse Marsch?

Certainly in the last four games in this unbeaten run, we’ve finally started to get the rub of the green. Watford had chances in this game but they were poor in front of goal, while at the other end they got in a right old tangle to present Rodrigo with a chance.

Even so, he had to muscle through to put it away and, similarly, Dan James was brave to put in the challenge that resulted in Raphinha’s fine opener.

The harder you work the luckier you get and we’ve proved that lately.

Leeds United's Liam Cooper and Watford's Joao Pedro battle for the ball. Picture: John Walton/PA Wire.

Man of the match: Raphinha.

KEITH INGHAM

This might have not been the greatest performance but at this stage it’s points on the board that matter.

Jesse Marsch will be happy with 10 points from 12 and the performances of players like Rodrigo and Raphinha have improved since the American joined the club and the return of club captain Liam Cooper has put a leader on the pitch, something Leeds were lacking in his absence.

Jack Harrison and Jesse Marsch acknowledge the Leeds United fans at Watford. Picture: Alex Morton/Getty Images.

The game could have gone either way with Watford having chances either side of Raphinha’s superb opening goal in the first half. Kalvin Phillips’ introduction in the second half spurred on the team in lilac to grab further goals from Rodrigo, after a mix up in the Watford defence, and another for Jack Harrison five minutes from time which wrapped up the win – that’s three in three games for the winger.

Without doubt the uptake in points has lessened the pressure on Leeds and you could see that at full time when the players and Marsch celebrated with the away section at Vicarage Road.

Four very tough games are to come starting with Palace in two weeks’ time, followed by a home game with Manchester City, Arsenal away and then Chelsea at Elland Road.

Hopefully a point or two could be gained in them.

Leeds United's Illan Meslier punches the ball under pressure from Watford's Joao PedroPicture: Ben Stansall/PA.

Leeds aren’t out of the woods yet but at least they can now see the path towards safety, three more points could just be enough if the teams below them fail to pick up significant wins and as they play each other all of them can’t win.

A great win and a much-needed three points.

Man of the match: Liam Cooper.

ANDY RHODES

After Everton’s result in the early kick-off on Saturday you could have forgiven the Whites for feeling the pressure at Watford.

What followed, though, was an accomplished performance that goes a long way to sealing Premier League football next season. Right across the pitch, the players looked comfortable and dangerous.

True quality was somewhat hard to come by from both sides but Leeds found the net when it mattered.

Raphinha looked sharp again, while Sam Greenwood looked like a bona fide Premier League player when he came off the bench.

At the back, the Whites kept a first clean sheet since November and looked solid all afternoon.

Captain Liam Cooper has brought a reassuring presence to the side since his return from injury.

Jesse Marsch admitted the performance wasn’t anywhere near perfect, but if they can play poorly and win 3-0 every week I think we’ll take it every time.

Man of the match: Liam Cooper.

MIKE GILL

On a sunny but bitterly cold afternoon in Hertfordshire, United dominated the Hornets before eventually destroying them altogether.

Watford had enough chances but apart from one shot from Imran Louza which whistled past the post, Watford’s efforts were high, wide and far from handsome. These are the characteristics of a side which has lost belief in itself. Leeds on the other hand played with a growing confidence. They were led by their inspirational captain, who broke up nearly every attack. How we have missed him.

An inspirational first-half goal from Raphinha put the Whites in the driving seat and they never looked back.

When the reborn Rodrigo made it 2-0 and Jack Harrison sent a great left-footed effort into the right hand corner of Ben Foster’s goal it was all over as Watford fans left the ground in their thousands.

Due praise must be given to Sam Greenwood who came on just after the hour and led the line with a superb cameo performance which culminated in his assist for Harrison’s goal.

Man of the match: Liam Cooper.

ANDREW DALTON

What was all the worry for then! In all seriousness having watched Everton defeat Manchester United earlier in the day, it was imperative that Leeds came away with a win at Vicarage Road.

It was a nervy start by both sides punctured only by a superb Raphinha strike that seemed to knock the stuffing out of Watford that gave Leeds a slender advantage at the break.

Ismaila Sarr really should have levelled in the second period, before Rodrigo, a man possessed under Jesse Marsch, made it two in front of the travelling contingent after a mix up in the home side’s defence.

Jack Harrrison lashed in the third to put the icing on cake and take the Whites further away from the bottom three.

Leeds now don’t have a Premier League game for 16 days – their next match is at Crystal Palace on April 25th – and by then Burnley will have played four times so we will have a much better idea of what needs to be done to complete the job.

Man of the match: Liam Cooper.