Leeds United had to dig deep and grit their teeth to claim a hard-fought victory away at Huddersfield Town this afternoon. The win edges them past West Bromwich Albion into 1st place, and extends their spotless winning run to six matches.
Danny Cowley's men will rue not making their first-half domination count, but ultimately lacked a killer touch in the final third, with Leeds' wealth of quality subsequently emerging as the Huddersfield legs began to tire.
Story of the match
With the home fans fired up for the first west Yorkshire derby in almost three years, it was no surprise to see Huddersfield come firing out the blocks, even with key men Trevoh Chalobah, Tommy Elphick and Lewis O'Brien absent.
The high-pressing Terriers harassed Leeds in possession, with the away side appearing slightly disorientated when supposed No.10 Karlan Grant moved up front and dragged holding-midfielder Ben White into a back three. It opened up acres of space for Huddersfield in the middle of the park, and they would dominate the first-half.
The first clear-cut chance, however, fell to the Whites in the 15th minute. Pablo Hernandez fizzed his corner along the ground, enticingly close to the Huddersfield defence. Peeling away from the back post was Mateusz Klich, who ghosted in front of the sea of players occupying the six-yard box and whipped his effort onto the post. Huddersfield were let off the hook.
Five minutes prior to the interval, Huddersfield would hit back with a massive chance of their own. A hopeful punt from Kamil Grabara travelled the whole length of the pitch, reaching Kiko Casilla, the Leeds goalkeeper. The Spaniard rose high against Steve Mounie in an attempt to claim the ball, but his efforts were severely misjudged, fumbling the ball to Grant.
With Casilla caught in no-mans land and the ball breaking to Grant, Leeds fans had their hearts in their mouth. To their relief, Grant's effort was headed clear by Ayling, but it wasn't the first time Mounie had ruffled up the Leeds defence with his physicality.
The half-time whistle was welcomed by Leeds, who hadn't yet settled into the match.
Five minutes into the second half, however, they would break the deadlock courtesy of a piece of magic from Ezgjan Alioski. Hernandez's corner was headed away by Mounie, but not to safety, as in came the onrushing Alioski with a thunderous volley that looped beneath Grabara. The away end erupted into a fit of relief, knowing deep down that this had been a mediocre performance.
With Huddersfield committing bodies forward in search of an equalier, Leeds' counter-attacking qualities would subsequently come to the fore. In the 55th minute, Jack Harrison unleashed Hernandez into a gaping space on the left-flank, the Spaniard then cutting inside and bending his effort inches wide of the far-right post.
Huddersfield were knocking on the door, and fashioning a number of chances. In the 64th minute, Josh Koroma shimmied inside from the left-flank and delivered a pinpoint cross onto the head of Elias Kachunga. Just six yards out, the equaliser seemed inevitable. The header was too central, though, with Casilla displaying great reactions and positioning to thwart the effort.
Just under fifteen minutes later, Leeds would seal the three points on the counter attack. Freed by Alioski on the right-flank, Harrison drove down the wing and crossed superbly for Hernandez, putting it on a plate for the Spaniard to head home. Leeds had their sixth consecutive win.
Superb versatility makes Leeds an unpredictable attacking force
Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds are a unique side. With such excellent versatility among the ranks, it allows them to almost play with no set formation. At a push, it was 3-3-3-1 today.
Natural right-back Luke Ayling was filling in as an auxillary centre-half, wingers Alioski and Harrison dovetailed as wing-backs and wingers, while natural attacker Hernandez played a central midfield role. Every player can practically play anywhere, and, at times, the positions are rotating in-game.
These varied movements make Leeds' attacking players very difficult to track, especially when they're committing lots of men forward. They create so many chances, and - should they better their ruthlessness in front of goal - will breeze to promotion this year.
Huddersfield show valiant reaction
Danny Cowley lamented Huddersfield's lack of effort and determination in their 5-2 battering by Bristol City last week, but can take pride in a much-improved performance today. The Terriers battled hard and played with great intensity, creating myriad chances in the process.
Losing 2-0 to Leeds is no disgrace, especially with a number of key players either injured or suspended. They are, however, winless in five now, and just one point separates them from the danger zone. The Cowley brothers did excellently to come in and propel them out of their wretched start to the season, but a rethink seems apt in order to escape the recent rut.
POTM- Luke Ayling
Filling in at centre-half, right-back Ayling defended admirably today. His positioning and ability to step out with the ball was superb, owning the role as though he'd played there all his life. A prime example of Leeds’ desirable versatility.