Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship in emphatic fashion on Saturday, sweeping Fulham aside 3-0 at Elland Road.
The Whites started the game superbly and opened the scoring through Patrick Bamford who got his reward for his hard work recently.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men took it up another level in the second half, and goals from Ezgjan Alioski and Jack Harrison put the result beyond doubt.
It was exactly the type of performance that was needed after the disappointing at Cardiff last weekend, and puts Leeds right back in the driving seat.
The Whites now have a three-point gap to West Brom, and an eight-point gap to third-placed Brentford – the perfect weekend.
Here are three things we learned from Leeds’ 3-0 win on Saturday…
1. Finally, an ugly win
We often look back on weekends where Leeds have played teams off the park with ease but still not taken advantage of that. Fulham dominated for large spells of the game on Saturday, but the Whites were precise and prolific in and out of possession. Winning ugly is a key trait in earning promotion to the Premier League and it’s something we didn’t do enough last season. Saturday’s game was exactly that though – Fulham had two more shots and kept 57.5% possession according to WhoScored, but Leeds were just too good on the counter-attack, and this is a cracking sign for the rest of the season.
2. Five subs really make a difference
Leeds are clearly the fittest and strongest team in the Championship at the best of times, but when they have the opportunity to make five substitutions rather than three – it is unfair on opposing teams. It was the perfect chance to showcase the new rulings, as Patrick Bamford, Helder Costa, Mateusz Klich all were given rests by Bielsa. On top of that, Pablo Hernandez, returning from injury, came on at half-time, changed the game and was then taken off once again before the end, something that would not have happened before the lockdown. The classic Bielsa burnout is a topic that keeps coming up, but everyone may have found their answer to that theory on Saturday.
3. Hernandez will make the difference
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – when on form it is harder to find a better playmaker in the Championship than Hernandez. The Spaniard was sorely missed against Cardiff and in the first-half against Fulham despite the differing scorelines. Hernandez came on and changed the game on its head almost effortlessly. The veteran midfielder makes it look so easy and the perfect example was his phenomenal assist for Harrison’s strike to make it 3-0. In 45 minutes, he completed 28 passes and carved the Cottagers open time and time again, so much so they would have been relieved to see him go off before the full-time whistle. Every player will be important between now and the end of the season, but it is hard to suggest that not many will have more of an impact on the Whites than a fully-fit Hernandez.
In other Leeds United news, here are our MOT player ratings from the 3-0 victory including three standout stars