Leeds United took a major step towards automatic promotion to the Premier League with a thorough 3-0 victory over Fulham at Elland Road. Patrick Bamford gave the Whites the lead ten minutes into the match, Ezgjan Alioski doubled the lead on 56 minutes and Jack Harrison rounded out the scoring in the 71st minute to propel the hosts three points clear of second-place West Bromwich Albion.
Story of the match
Fulham were lucky not to be down to ten men inside two minutes as Aleksandar Mitrovic elbowed Ben White, but the referee somehow missed the incident. The Championship's leading scorer then made a more positive impact, setting up Anthony Knockaert who fired his shot wide.
Leeds were in front shortly thereafter. Helder Costa with an inquisitive run down the right, pulling the ball back and waiting for the streaking Bamford, who took the pass and stuck it in the corner past goalkeeper Marek Rodak. Fulham went searching for an equalizer, Knockaert going wide from distance and Mitrovic flubbing a volley from inside the box.
Both goalkeepers were being tested, Rodak keeping out Kalvin Phillips' well-struck 35-yard and Illan Meslier denying Knockaert on the volley. The visitors thought they had won a penalty when Tyler Roberts appeared to handle inside the area, but the referee waved play on.
Mitrovic looked likeliest to level the match for the visitors and he lashed a low, stinging volley that was well-served by Meslier before his header went wide from a corner. Joe Bryan also was wide with his 25-yard curler. Against the run of play, Leeds almost doubled their lead, Bamford lofting over Rodak only to see his strike go inches wide to bring the first half to a close.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa made two changes coming out of the halftime break with Alioski and Pablo Hernandez coming on to replace Costa and Bamford and the switch had an immediate impact as Roberts flashed one just wide of Rodak's goal. The hosts then had a lovely passage of play, Mateusz Klich setting up Roberts, who cut back for Harrison, who saw deflected effort just miss.
Meslier kept the hosts in front, tipping Knockaert's free kick over and soon the Whites doubled their lead. After dealing with the resulting corner, Harrison stormed up the pitch, sent in a low ball that Alioski got on the end of and fired past Rodak to make it 2-0. Leeds were buzzing and the Fulham keeper had to be alert to Hernandez' cross.
Neeskens Kebano provided temporary relief for the Cottagers, forcing Meslier into a save, but shortly thereafter, Leeds put the game to bed, Hernandez sending Harrison through and the former New York City FC man beat Rodak and with Kebano shown a second yellow card, things went from bad to worse as Leeds firmly establish themselves as promotion favorites.
Man of the Match: Jack Harrison
Leeds were ahead when Harrison came on as a substitute, but his introduction to the match gave the Whites that extra gear as he set his teammates up for several excellent chances before finishing one off himself.
Leeds are surely going up. The late-season collapses that have plagued the Whites in the past don't seem to be a factor this time around. In one of the most important matches in recent club history, Bielsa's men delivered.
Contrast this with Fulham, who have now dropped consecutive matches against fourth place Brentford and now today's result. Mitrovic will be lucky to escape a three-match ban for his ridiculous elbow, taking away the Championship's leading scorer from a team that has failed to find the back of the net. If this trend continues, Scott Parker and his club may find themselves fighting just to make the play-offs.