Bielsa teaches Parker a footballing lesson as Pablo delivers second half masterclass
28 Jun 2020 03:52 pm, by YorkshireSquare
Leeds United 3 (Bamford 10, Alioski 56, Harrison 71)
Fulham FC 0
Saturday 27th June 2020 15:00 | Elland Road
Scott Parker, bedecked in a blue blazer, looked like a nervous schoolboy as he squirmed during his post-match interview on Saturday afternoon. It was quite fitting really since he had just been taught a footballing lesson by Marcelo Bielsa. The day had started better for Parker and his Fulham side and they came out with an intensity and aggression which had Leeds on the back foot. A cool finish from Patrick Bamford after an incisive run and cutback from Helder Costa had given Leeds a one nil lead after ten minutes, the first goal in front of the newly christened Norman Hunter stand, but it was very much against the run of play and Fulham dominated the remainder of the first half.
Leeds are used to having the lion’s share of the possession but they looked edgy and harried as they failed to keep hold of the ball and get a grip on the midfield. Anthony Knockaert and Joe Bryan in particular threatened the Leeds goal but Illan Meslier was up to the challenge. If there was one area Leeds were dominant over their London opponents it was in their own six yard box. Liam Cooper and Ben White stood strong and defiant with the latter keeping Aleksandar Mitrović firmly in his pocket for the majority of the game. If the Serbian’s second minute off the ball elbow to the head of the young centre back was supposed to unsettle him it seemed only to do the opposite.
It was a nervy, anxious first half for Leeds fans, so much so that half of the cardboard crowdies in the East Stand couldn’t bear to watch. Something needed to change in the second half if Leeds were to hold onto their lead and Marcelo Bielsa took decisive action. Substituting the provider and scorer of the only goal in the game might not have been the obvious choice but it was Bamford and Costa who would depart for Pablo Hernandez and Gianni Alioski. Bamford hadn’t played badly having scored one and created another good chance for Costa, but with Leeds having little of the ball he was starved of opportunities.
The impact of the changes was immediate, Hernandez was a calming influence in midfield who stamped his authority on the game and dictated play like the magician that he is. Kalvin Phillips marked Tom Cairney out of the contest and the chances that Fulham had in the first half dried up. Mateusz Klich was suddenly freer to get forward and Alioski, Harrison and Roberts stretched Fulham’s back line, carving them open in the way we are used to this Leeds side doing to teams week after week.
It was Roberts and Harrison who combined early on to give Fulham an early warning in the second half, Harrisons shot would have nestled in the bottom corner of the net had it not been for a deflection off an outstretched boot. Harrison was involved again just before the hour mark as he latched onto a perfectly weighted pass from Klich. Harrisons cross from the right hand side evaded not only Roberts but the four Fulham defenders as well falling to a composed Alioski who slotted home to double Leeds United’s lead and put nerves at ease. The crowdies in the Revie Stand the grateful recipients of Macedonians kissed of celebration.
Footballers who make the game look as easy as Pablo Hernandez are rare, he is (as some might say) different gravy! That fifth sense to know where everyone on the pitch is, to know what run his teammates are making and the ability to play the pass that unlocks everything make him one of the best I have seen to don the white shirt of Leeds United. Just after seventy minutes Luke Ayling played the ball out to Pablo, receiving it halfway inside his own half, he had already taken a look over his shoulder and seen Jack Harrisons run, he knew exactly where the winger was going to be, even before Harrison himself realised himself.
The Fulham twitter account described it as a ‘long ball’, the Sky Sports commentary team called it the ‘pass of the season’, I call it perfection. The ball beat four defenders but Harrison still had a lot to do, the speed to break down the wing, the strength to hold off the defender and the tenacity to slot the ball home between the keepers leg for the third goal. His momentum carried him into the North stand, looking slightly perplexed surrounded by inanimate cardboard cut-outs, in more normal times he would have been mobbed by a hundred Koppites, but these are not normal times.
With the job done Hernandez was substituted for Jamie Shackleton after forty six minutes of pure perfection, surely to be wrapped up in cotton wool by Rob Price and his team. After a first half where Leeds struggled to get a foot in the game Marcelo Bielsa taught Scott Parker a footballing lesson and Pablo Hernandez delivered a masterclass in the second half at Elland Road on Saturday. Things would get worse for Parker too as Neeskens Kebano was sent off after a second bookable offence in injury time. He will surely be joined on the suspensions list by Mitrović once the FA have had a chance to look at his assault on Ben White.
It was important for Leeds to get a good early result in this run in of nine games, I had hoped it would have been against Cardiff but a three-nil victory against promotion rivals Fulham will do nicely and it gives confidence going into Tuesday’s game against Luton. Fulham on the other hand find themselves losing ground to Brentford and Forest with an in-form Cardiff hot on their heels.
Meslier, Ayling, White, Cooper, Dallas, Phillips, Costa (Alioski 45), Klich (Douglas 80), Roberts, Harrison (Poveda 83), Bamford (Hernández 45 (Shackleton 90))
Unused Subs: Berardi, Miazek, Struijk, Shackleton, Stevens