Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship table as they recorded a sixth straight victory by defeating west Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side needed to wait until the second half to break the deadlock after Ezgjan Alioski fired in a first-time volley from the edge of the penalty box after a cleared corner fell straight into his path.
The visitors then launched a scathing counter-attack with a little over ten minutes left on the clock as winger Jack Harrison whipped in a perfect cross straight onto the head of Pablo Hernandez at the back post.
It means Leeds’ 2-0 victory takes their defensive record to an 11th clean sheet from 20 league games, even despite missing skipper Liam Cooper and influential anchorman Kalvin Phillips.
Brighton loanee Ben White filled in for the 24-year-old but regularly throughout the match it appeared to be a three-at-the-back formation with Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling filling in.
And it was the latter that drew substantial praise from sections of the visiting support on Twitter.
Ayling you beauty
— Soner (@lufcsoner) December 7, 2019
Ayling having a good game, White settled down a bit now.
— Tiddy (@PureLeeds) December 7, 2019
Luke Ayling the stand out in a very poor first half. Midfield needs some stability and that yellow for Klich isn't going to help #lufc
— Jack Waldis (@waldis17) December 7, 2019
Ayling having another solid performance
— Chris Hall (@ChrisHall841) December 7, 2019
Ayling has been superb today with the captain's armband. Kiko Casilla also crucial. Costa still improving. #LUFC
— Anders has opinions (@BenBuford11) December 7, 2019
Get in! Excellent performances from Alioski, Ayling and Kiko today #lufc.
— Robert Gray (@RobertG76210733) December 7, 2019
— sf (@Theroxyfox) December 7, 2019
Ayling was class at the back today, really don’t want to see Berra play much more
— Matthew (@Matt_EarthPro) December 7, 2019
Don’t underestimate the performance of Ayling today. Outstanding in the middle
— gareth senior (@SeniorGareth) December 7, 2019
‘Class,’ ‘solid’ and ‘superb’ were just three superlatives used to describe the 28-year-old’s performance which only goes to show how well he played considering he’s a full-back by trade.
Several other fans were left drooling over his passion too after he was spotted kissing the badge after Alioski’s opener…
— Whiteflagflyinghigh (@bag_alaw) December 7, 2019
Luke ayling grabbing the badge u love to see it https://t.co/cMr6jIc2kL
— Spike Baugh (@SpikeBaugh) December 7, 2019
Luke Ayling bleeds Leeds United 💛💙
— Ryan David Hopkins (@RyanVanHopkins) December 7, 2019
When the team news was announced before kickoff, some supporters were slightly worried about the prospect of having Ayling at centre-back, it’s safe to say that they walked away from the match with egg on their face.
Per SofaScore, the 6 foot 1 defender recorded four clearances, three interceptions and also blocked two shots.
Ayling and Berra at CB isn’t ideal is it
— Nath Baxter (@nathbaxt) December 7, 2019
Hope so, worried about Ayling in central defence, in Bielsa we trust.
— Jez Wootton 💙💛 (@jezemondo) December 7, 2019
Please tell me ben white is going to place centre half now that cooper is out..not ayling and berardi
— Brian OConnell (@brianleedsluke) December 7, 2019
— Scott (@scott8687) December 7, 2019
Leeds will have to wait until later this afternoon to see if they remain at the top of the Championship table as their closest rivals West Bromwich Albion face Swansea City.
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