There were a handful of outstanding performances for Leeds United fans to drool over on Saturday evening but there was one player who made all the difference according to Phil Hay.
The immensely popular Yorkshire Evening Post reporter provided his ritual player ratings piece in the aftermath of Leeds’ 1-0 victory over Derby County and he reserved some special words for Kalvin Phillips.
The firm fan favourite – affectionately dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ – has been a revelation this season and he continued to underline his quality at this level with a complete performance in the play-off semi-final, earning esteemed praise and an 8/10 rating from Hay in the process, per YEP.
‘A brick wall between Derby’s midfield and frontline, who struggled to link together properly. That’s where the game was won.’
One of football’s greatest clichés argues the point that games are won and lost in the centre of midfield.
Phillips’ imperious domination and ice-cool composure in the anchor role testified to that cliché and illuminated the importance of his presence in that area of the field.
Per Whoscored, the 23-year-old won three aerial duels, completed two tackles, one interception and six clearances in a busy performance.
Not only was he adept at recovering possession for his side but equally he was a reliable metronome in-front of the defence, providing the foundation for every Leeds foray forward with his distribution into attacking-minded midfielders.
When Phillips is at his very best it’s easy to see why he commands such popularity on the terraces at Elland Road and, if he continues to perform to this standard, there’s no doubt he could make a successful transition into the Premier League.
Marcelo Bielsa may have a huge challenge on his hands in his endeavour to keep him this summer if Leeds don’t win promotion via the play-offs.