For the second consecutive game Leeds United started with the same line-up, what many Leeds United fans might have called a bit of a mish-mash line-up last season.
However, under the guiding hand of Marcelo Bielsa what might have been an unfancied line-up last season, what with a right-back playing in the centre of defence and a small forward favoured over £10million of striking talent on the bench, is actually a line-up that is working.
Bielsa, called El Loco in his native Argentina, certainly has galvanised the Whites from a side that were chasing shadows last season to one that are now chasing wins. Twice now, against fancied sides in Stoke City and Derby County, Leeds United have come racing out of the blocks and taken the game to their opponents.
Stoke City were suffocated in the first-half of their encounter, ending a frustrating opening 45 minutes two goals down, the Whites Bielsa press starving them of opportunities. Likewise Derby County found themselves chasing the Whites all around Pride Park in their opening half and going in 2-1 down after the first period of play.
First-half: Leeds United press out a goal advantage
An unfancied line-up last season was sparked in to life by one of last season’s unfancied players, Mateusz Klich (5′). Samu Saiz broke, fed fellow Spaniard Pablo Hernandez who found Polish midfielder Klich. The born-again White stepped to his right and steered the ball across scott Carson and in to the bottom right corner of the former England stopper’s goal.
😱 “Leeds United in charge already!”
Two goals in two games for Mateusz Klich!
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) August 11, 2018
Derby are no mugs and showed this by their response. Shrugging off Leeds’ choking press they went at the Whites, earning themselves a free-kick after Tom Lawrence drew a foul from Leeds captain Liam Cooper. The kick itself was in a dangerous position on the edge of the box. Lawrence himself took the kick, smashing it past Bailey Peacock-Farrell (12′) in the Leeds goals to bring Derby level.
— Derby County (@dcfcofficial) August 11, 2018
The energy in this game from two teams tipped to be play-off contenders was bristling with intent as both teams looked to work further openings. However it was Leeds United who found the next goal the quickest through last season’s leading scorer Kemar Roofe (22′). Derby’s equaliser only stood for 10 minutes before Barry Douglas played a ball out wide to Gjanni Alioski, the Macedonian floating the ball to Roofe who rose like a leaping salmon to steer home a powerful header past Carson.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 11, 2018
There were further chances for both Leeds United and Derby, the former revolving around the driving runs of the mercurial Samu Saiz. Such was his growing influence that Derby resorted to chopping him down at every opportunity, with yellow cards being given to both Joe Ledley and Richard Keogh in quick succession as the half-time whistle approached.
Half-time: Derby County 1 – 2 Leeds United
Second-half: Rams raided by another Leeds United double
Derby started the second-half with a substitution, the booked Ledley being replaced by former White Bradley Johnson whose role was to man-mark Samu Saiz. It was Derby who created the early chances with Mason Mount (47′) and Craig Bryson (55′) only just failing to profit. However, Derby had Carson to thank for keeping them in the game (57′) with a fantastic one-handed save after Luke Ayling’s lofted ball in found Roofe whose powerful header was too close to the Derby keeper.
Three minutes later though, it was better fortune for Roofe. A ball in to his feet saw the former Oxford United striker pivot like a ballerina, turn away from Fikayo Tomori and powerfully smash the ball (60′) beyond Carson and inside the near post to give United a 3-1 lead.
60′ GGGGGOOOOOAAAALLLL!!! ROOOOFE YOU BEAUTY!!! WHAT A GOAL!!!
— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 11, 2018
Leeds were sensing blood now and continued to pile forward at their increasingly labouring opponents. It was a 3-1 lead that only lasted four minutes and it was the oft-maligned Alioski who added Leeds’ fourth goal to his earlier assist. Pablo Hernandez chased down what looked a lost cause of a ball, prodding it back into the Derby area. There it met the Macedonian winger who planted a firm header (64′) past Carson to add to Derby’s misery.
There was still enough time left in the second-half for both sides to carve out further chances and for Leeds United to give débuts to young midfielder Jamie Shackleton (72′) and £7million striker Patrick Bamford (79′). With Derby and Leeds both still adding to the value of a quality game, neither was able to add to the scoreline as Leeds ran out comfortable winners on the day.
Final score: Derby County 1 – 4 Leeds United