Leeds United moved to the top of the Championship table with a 2-0 win over Yorkshire rivals Hull City.
Their seventh win in a row did not come easy though, with the Tigers frustrating their hosts until Jordy De Wijs put a cross into his own net in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Ezgjan Alioski added a second on the counter to wrap up the win and take Leeds above West Bromwich Albion, for one night at least, at the summit.
Story of the game
Leeds, switching from three at the back to a four-man defence with Kalvin Phillips returning in the only change for either side, struggled to click in the first 10 minutes as Hull had a vibrant start. Dan Batty had a shot blocked and danger man Jarrod Bowen dragged wide before the home side started to find their feet in the new system.
Jack Harrison fluffed a volley but the first good chance for all their probing came when Leo Lopes blocked Helder Costa’s effort after a good Pablo Hernandez pass.
Tom Eaves headed a Bowen corner into the side netting at the near post for the Tigers, but their striker’s brief was mainly to hold up the ball as the other 10 players got behind the ball, defending in numbers and largely defending well.
As the half went on, Leeds’s usual rhythm began to feature. Gaetano Berardi found the side netting from a corner himself, and Patrick Bamford could only get a touch on a brilliant Costa delivery after impressive work from Phillips striding forward.
Hernandez also curled a shot over the top but, for all their good work outside the penalty area, they couldn’t breach the Hull rearguard before the break.
The home side came out scratchy again at the beginning of the second half and Hull showed promise, culminating in the game’s first shot on target finally coming in the 57th minute. Bowen found the space to run that had so far eluded him and he slipped Eaves in, but goalkeeper Kiko Casilla came out on top with a save to his left.
A couple of minutes later, Leeds thought they had the lead. Costa was free in the middle of the box to tap in a fantastic Harrison cross, but the winger had been offside in receiving Hernandez’s pass down the left flank and the flag went up.
It was developing into a delightfully frantic, end-to-end contest. Ben White blocked a strike from Eaves after Lopes had caught Leeds out in possession as Hull saw far more of the ball in the opposition third, while De Wijs made a crucial block for the Tigers to deny Harrison’s thumping drive following good work by Bamford.
Eventually a goal had to come and it did a few minutes later, with the Dutch defender’s good work soon forgotten. Hernandez sent an inch-perfect ball down the right touchline for Costa and the Wolves loanee crossed, going in off the unfortunate sliding De Wijs past the already-diving George Long.
Hull looked for response as Jackson Irvine fired over, before the sucker punch that finished the match. Eaves was denied on the line from a corner and Bowen couldn’t stab in the rebound either, with Casilla launching an immediate Whites counter. That saw Bamford’s strike hit the post and fall to Alioski, who found the back of the net from a tricky angle with Long on the floor following a collision with Bamford.
Leeds get there in the end
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are used to having to wait patiently against sides set up first and foremost to stop his team, and it proved another such game as Hull produced a defiant defensive effort.
When they got into their stride Leeds played with the fluency and skill that the Championship is used to seeing, but in the first half there was still little end product to show for the good work being done by the likes of Harrison, Costa and Hernandez.
Only in the second half, when Hull began to discover their more adventurous side, were they able to find the spaces in behind to kill off the Tigers and secure the three points.
The own goal could be put down to luck but heavy pressure tells and it was a slice of fortunate that will come the way of any side if they push relentlessly enough, while Alioski’s clincher took advantage of the trailing side’s push for a leveller.
Bowen kept quiet by best defence
Bowen was a destructive force at Elland Road last season when his double ended a lengthy Leeds winning run, but they were smarter to his talents this time around.
If any side was to stop the division’s joint-top scorer it was going to be Leeds, who have conceded just 10 all season to hold the title of the country’s most miserly defence.
Despite Hull having their chances in the second half to punish them, they have kept four clean sheets in a row, and 13 already this season, and on this evidence few teams will find a way through.