Leeds United produced an emphatic display to overcome struggling Reading by a 3-0 scoreline at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night and return to the top of the Championship table.
All three goals came in the first half, as midfielder Mateusz Klich opened the scoring before veteran Spaniard Pablo Hernandez notched a well-taken brace. After the break, the Whites were comfortable and managed the game with ease, whilst No. 9 Patrick Bamford missed a handful of chances to add some gloss to the scoreline.
It was an accomplished performance from the Elland Road outfit, and with the run in fast approaching, and the race for automatic promotion so tight, fans can take heart from such a calm and composed display.
The win certainly gave an insight into what kind of shape Bielsa’s side are in as the finish line for the campaign begins to come into sight. Here’s three things we learned…
Right-back Luke Ayling’s performances in recent weeks have left plenty to be desired. However, Bielsa stuck with the 27-year-old in his starting XI throughout this time and was rewarded with a fine performance on Tuesday.
The full-back was devastating in the final third and notched two assists for his creative efforts. He also was generally very solid defensively and distributed the ball well. However, despite the many upsides to his display, the Arsenal academy product was perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card following one particularly poor challenge.
All in all though, it was certainly a step in the right direction for Ayling.
Ayling is not alone in having improved recently. Leeds themselves have won four games on the bounce, scoring ten and conceding only twice in that run. Prior to this winning streak the Yorkshire club had won only two of their last six league matches.
Bielsa’s side now look to have emerged from this sticky patch, with their title ambitions still very much intact, and are now hitting form and gathering momentum at the perfect time.
The Whites face fellow promotion hopefuls Sheffield United at Elland Road on Saturday in what could potentially be a season-defining encounter for both sides. Leeds will be going into it full of confidence and belief, fuelled by their recent dominance.
Despite the club’s results having improved dramatically, a certain flaw remains. The Whites are still not clinical enough in front of goal. They’re certainly far too reliant upon moments of sheer brilliance from Hernandez to make up for the number of easy chances they miss.
Bamford demonstrated against Reading that he’s still missing a ruthless edge. They were able to get away with this because they could produce such a high volume of chances against the relegation-battlers.
This will not be the case against the Blades though. Chris Wilder’s side are a formidably solid defensive unit, so Leeds must be efficient and capitalise upon any chances they get.