Gjanni Alioski's opening Leeds United rocket proved a sign of things to come

Gjanni Alioski is heading for a new chapter of his football career with Saudi Arabia side Al-Ahli in the Middle East.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 4:41 pm

The North Macedonian international left Leeds United after five years at Elland Road, taking in 171 games and scoring 22 goals.

Alioski was partial to scoring the odd screamer and did just that back in the summer of 2017 as his first goal for the club sealed a 2-0 victory at Championship hosts Nottingham Forest.

The triumph maintained United's unbeaten start to the new season and whilst Leeds fell away, for Alioski the strike was a sign of more to come.

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ROCKET: Gjanni Alioski scores his first goal for Leeds United in the 2-0 victory at Nottingham Forest of August 2017. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The Whites were still ensconced in English football’s second tier but were at least knocking on the door towards a Premier League return.

The previous season under boss Garry Monk looked destined to end with a place in the play-offs only for the Whites to fall away and finish seventh.

Even so, it was still United’s highest finish Simon Grayson’s side also finished seventh back in 2011.

Shortly after the 2016-17 season had concluded, Andrea Radrizzani then sealed full control of the club, buying the remaining 50 per cent of shares from former owner Massimo Cellino.

Monk then shocked the club by quitting and Radrizzani opted for former APOEL boss Thomas Christiansen as Monk’s successor.

Christiansen only lasted six months but Leeds began the following campaign with a bang and summer signing Alioski’s strike at Forest was the icing on the cake as the Whites made it 11 points from a possible 15.

Forest against Leeds always marked one of the biggest games of the season in English football’s second tier as two sleeping giant heavyweights slugged it out in looking to restore former glories.

Forest, though, had only narrowly avoided being demoted to the third tier in the 2016-17 season in which they stayed up on goal difference.

Mark Warburton had been appointed the club’s new manager in March and then approached his first full season in charge which, like Leeds, also began well.

Forest lined up against Christiansen’s side following three victories and just one defeat but Leeds condemned them to another reverse as a thriving Kemar Roofe and Alioski bagged a goal apiece.

Roofe had bagged a hat-trick in the game that preceded the trip to Forest as Leeds romped to a 5-1 success at home to EFL Cup visitors Newport County whose side featured a young Ben White on loan from Brighton.

And Roofe struck again at the City Ground to fire the Whites into a 24th-minute lead with a header at the opposite end of the ground to United’s away fans.

Leeds had earlier threatened when Samu Saiz let fly from the edge of the box that flew over the top right corner of the net.

But United went ahead after a Pablo Hernandez free-kick was only cleared to Liam Cooper who headed back towards goal and Roofe then clinically nodded home a smart finish from six yards out.

Forest looked to respond and Felix Wiedwald got down well to keep out a header from a corner.

The Tricky Trees then looked set to threaten after the break when Barrie McKay made his way to the edge of the Whites only to be blocked off by Alioski.

McKay’s claims for a foul were ignored and Leeds then countered to eventually work an opening for Stuart Dallas who fired just wide from just inside the box.

But Leeds made sure they would be leaving the City Ground with all three points after doubling their lead with three minutes left through a strike that took United’s goal of the season award.

As Forest looked to clear, Dallas won back possession with a superb sliding tackle midway through the Forest half and then ball broke to Alioski and Eunan O’Kane some 30 yards from goal.

Alioski then took two quick touches to work the space for a shot and unleashed an absolute thunderbolt that flew past Jordan Smith into the bottom left corner in front of an ecstatic away end.

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Thank you Laura Collins