Image Credit [Express & Star]
Leeds United suffered their first big defeat of the season on Saturday, going down 4-1 at West Brom. The home side dominated throughout and a huge second half performance, in which all four goals were scored, saw Marcelo Bielsa’s men put to the sword and knocked off the top of the Championship table.
From the outset West Brom appeared to be a class above their West Yorkshire rivals, despite having previously slipped out of the playoff places, looking sharper and much more attentive on the counter attack than Leeds, who struggled to gain any real foothold into the game.
Leeds’ quick-tempo passing game was easily nullified by the Baggies, who sat back and absorbed the Whites’ attacking pressure in order to break quickly on the counter.
This tactic almost paid dividends twice in the first half, with Hal Robson-Kanu firing over following a breakaway move and Jay Rodriguez striking the Leeds crossbar with a curling effort from distance.
Leeds barely got a sniff in the first half, with their ever-elegant passing style suffocated by West Brom’s organised defence, led by Ahmed Hegazi. Leeds’ best chance of the half, a speculative shot coming from Mateusz Klich, was easily cleaned up by West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone.
If Bielsa’s men thought the first half was a warning of what was to come, it was realised all too quickly six minutes into the second half. Former West Brom man Kemar Roofe’s penalty appeal fell on deaf ears, and Albion swiftly moved the ball up the pitch through the scattered Leeds defence before Robson-Kanu’s thunderous shot beat Bailey Peacock-Farrell at his far post to make it 1-0.
Things got worse for Leeds soon after, when Klich was dispossessed in his own half by Matt Phillips. Despite being 25 yards out, Phillips’ low shot made the score 2-0, even though Peacock-Farrell got two hands to the ball.
If this one-two punch of goals wasn’t bad enough for Leeds, West Brom landed two more late in the game. Firstly, following a poor clearance from Peacock-Farrell, Albion won possession again, Adarabioyo threading the ball through gaping defensive holes for Harvey Barnes to tap past the Leeds keeper.
The introduction of Dwight Gayle brought about more misery for Leeds moments later, with the on-loan Newcastle man superbly backheeling in the rebound from Rodriguez’s initial shot. The flowing move again came from Leeds losing possession, albeit this time from their own kick-off.
Despite this Leeds performance showing how exactly not to defend, the introduction of Samu Saiz at least gave them some bite in attack. The Spanish midfielder chipped for his countryman Pablo Hernandez, who despite his small stature sent a powerful looping header over the head of Johnstone and into the West Brom net, but this impressive goal could not hide that this was an absolute thumping for Leeds.
Cause for concern for Leeds?
Whilst this defeat appears to be humiliating on paper, Leeds fans have no reason to be alarmed. Results like this amongst teams close in the table are commonplace in the Championship, and it is only Leeds’ third defeat of the season. However, the lacklustre performance of Leeds’ makeshift defence, brought about by considerable injuries in an already thin squad, has raised eyebrows about the team’s depth, and recruitment in January is looking more and more necessary. However, with an international break coming up, the club has time to recuperate and refresh before the busy Christmas period, one which will be crucial for determining if this result has a positive or negative effect on Leeds’ season.