Leeds United romped to a comfortable 4-0 win against promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion on Friday evening, sending a statement to the rest of the Championship as they usurped Sheffield United to go top of the table.
A goal from Pablo Hernandez inside the opening twenty seconds set the tempo for the proceeding ninety minutes, with the hosts comfortable and composed while their opponents failed to muster up any kind of attacking threat. Patrick Bamford's brace and a late strike from Ezgjan Alioski put the gloss on the club's biggest win under Marcelo Bielsa's management.
Bielsa achieves his biggest win as Leeds boss as West Brom fail to impress
A game that was hard to call prior to kick-off given the respective league positions of the two sides and their recent defeats. West Brom entered the game having scored 67 goals, twelve more than their opponents, with Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez in scintillating form this season under Darren Moore. Meanwhile, Leeds had shown themselves to be a more than capable side in the final third, led by the incisive movement of former-Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford.
Yet, to many people's surprise, it would prove to be one of the most one sided contests you'll see all season. Where Leeds provided their best football under Bielsa, West Brom struggled to get hold of the ball only to squander possession when they did. Indeed, there was little service to Gayle or Hal Robson-Kanu, while a lack of runners from midfield ensured everything was played in front of the Leeds back-four. At the other end, the mazy runs of Hernandez and Tyler Roberts pulled West Brom defenders left, right and centre, enabling Bamford the space to get in at goal.
The performances of both teams could not have been more contrasting on a night where Leeds rose to the challenge, playing electric and attacking football that many would welcome in the Premier League while West Brom showed that there remains work to be done.
Leeds emphatically silence those who doubt they can go all the way
Having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat against Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday, there were suggestions that this Leeds side didnt have what it takes to go all the way. As good as they've been under Bielsa this season, it was a frailty at a vital moment in the promotion challenge, squandering an opportunity to go top of the table. However, they didn't have to wait long to put things right, with the manner of Friday night's performance providing the perfect response to accusations that the squad are at risk of burning out in what remains of the campaign.
Indeed, the manager pointed out that his own guard had dropped against QPR, but he could have no such complaints about his players at Elland Road.
"It was a huge effort. The loss on Tuesday was not due to a lack of effort, said Bielsa. "We didn't need the performance tonight to see that we didn't lack energy last Tuesday."
"For me, the most important thing was the effort, the attitude, the behaviour and the state of mind of the whole team during the whole game. It's a win which is owed to the players."
"When a win is based on such consistent effort from the whole team, we have to say that it's the responsibility of the players. It's the first time in this competition I have made such a comment."
Rest assured, this was a statement win on a big night for both sides, with Leeds sending a notice to their promotion rivals that they shall not go down quietly. Indeed, the result now sees them in a very healthy position to advance to the Premier League next season, particularly given Sheffield United's clash with rivals Sheffield Wednesday on Monday night.