In a clash between the Championship’s top two sides, Leeds clinched a point against fellow promotion hopefuls West Brom at the Hawthorns on Wednesday night.
Both sides knew that a victory would see them go 11 points clear of the side in third, and potentially deliver a major statement as to earning automatic promotion to the riches of the Premier League. And after scoring inside the opening minutes of the game through Semi Ajayi, West Brom may have thought they would be on well on their way to three points.
Instead, Leeds rallied back and scored an equaliser in the second-half thanks to an own goal from Ajayi, although Patrick Bamford played a major part in it. The striker had been brought on at half-time by Bielsa, and whilst it didn’t result in a win, it certainly changed things in their favour.
With speculation mounting before the match that Eddie Nketiah would indeed be recalled by his parent club, it was perhaps surprising to see him start from the off against the Baggies. And whilst he made just six passes in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, he did something vital off it. His pace and movement seemed to drag West Brom’s defenders around, often being seen making those darting runs in behind even if he wasn’t found by his teammates.
And speaking after the game, Bielsa himself felt that the striker’s work allowed Bamford to change the game. He said (as quoted by Leeds Live): “Nketiah did something to their centre-backs and Bamford took advantage of the exhausted centre-backs due to Nketiah’s work. Also, Bamford, for his physical characteristics worked better against their defenders.”
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After his introduction, Bamford had three total attempts on goal which was the highest of any Leeds player on the pitch, whilst he also won three of his five duels and earned two free-kicks. Bielsa may have been quick to pass on the credit to the forward, but the Argentine should be roundly applauded for taking the decision to exploit the Baggies’ ailing back-line by introducing a player who could most benefit from it.
From staring down the barrel of a bruising defeat, it was the Leeds boss who helped ensure they clinched a valuable point.