Pablo Hernandez leaves Leeds United with everlasting legacy and strike for Big Jack
PABLO Hernandez conjured up many Leeds United highs and memorable Whites goals were aplenty.
Thirty-six goals to be precise in his five years at the club, and not many of his contributions were tap-ins.
But it was the Spaniard’s goal against Swansea City of July 2020 that will always prove his lasting legacy and a strike that is widely regarded as the one that sent Leeds on their way up.
United kicked off their fourth-last game of the campaign sitting top of the Championship table but only one point clear of second-placed West Brom.
More to the point, third-placed Brentford were just three points back in third and threatening to take the automatic promotion race to the wire.
But Hernandez had other ideas and struck in the 89th minute to net the goal from which Leeds never looked back; three straight wins followed to seal promotion in the ultimate style, finishing 10 points clear as champions.
The game fell just two days after the passing of United’s all-time record appearance holder, Jack Charlton, and Leeds and Swansea paid their respects with a minute’s silence followed by applause in front of the empty Liberty Stadium stands amidst the ongoing battle with coronavirus.
Both sides had chances in a first half that ended goalless as Illan Meslier proved equal to a low shot from Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster.
Jack Harrison, Stuart Dallas and Patrick Bamford all threatened for Leeds.
Bielsa then opted to make what proved a crucial double change during the interval, Hernandez replacing Tyler Roberts and Gjanni Alioski coming on for Dallas.
However, only a fine save from Meslier kept the score goalless as the Leeds ’keeper tipped a ferocious rising drive from Conor Gallagher over.
United then squandered a glorious chance in the 64th minute when a fantastic first-time cross from Jack Harrison following a raking Hernandez pass created an opening for Bamford, whose diving header from close range was kept out by Woodman.
The contest looked destined to end goalless, much to West Brom and Brentford’s delight.
Yet Leeds, Hernandez and initially Ayling had other ideas as Leeds broke away in the 89th minute to score one of the most important goals in their history.
The move began as captain Liam Cooper intercepted a cross from the right flank from Wayne Routledge with a calm touch to Kalvin Phillips.
Phillips then played a low ball across the penalty area to Ayling, who set himself before storming his way towards the halfway line and sending a pass towards Mateusz Klich.
Klich then hit a first-time pass to the right flank for Helder Costa, who moved forward whilst looking for options.
Very quickly one arrived at a speed of knots in the shape of Ayling on the overlap as the right back had continued his run and latched on to Costa’s pass near the byline.
Amazingly, there were five Whites players in the box and from Swansea’s point of view, Ayling’s half-cleared cross fell to exactly the wrong man in Hernandez.
The Spaniard took one touch to set himself and then almost instantly fired the most precise of low shots towards the far left corner.
The effort had Woodman scrambling across his line, but it was to no avail as the ball skipped past the keeper and into the back of the net, going in off the post.
Off came the shirt as the playmaker raced away to celebrate and the Spaniard’s words in his post-match interview struck a chord right across the full spectrum of the club’s fan base.
“We received the bad news the other day but everyone within Leeds United and all of the fans remember him,” said Hernandez of Charlton.
“He is part of the history of this club and these three points are for everybody and for the fans but especially for him and for his memory.
"I am sure he will help us in the next weeks’ games from the sky and this win is for him.”
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Thank you Laura Collins