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Forget Meslier: Leeds United’s Charlie Cresswell was Marcelo Bielsa’s real hero vs Fulham

In the end, Leeds United secured their passage into the next round of the Carabao Cup after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out victory over Fulham on Tuesday night.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side weren’t at their vintage best at Craven Cottage, but thanks to some heroics from goalkeeper Illan Meslier, they managed to move onto the fourth round of the competition.

But while Meslier will no doubt take some of the headlines for stepping up in that crucial moment during the spot-kicks, it was arguably Charlie Cresswell’s performance at the back that really stood out the most.

Should Cresswell now start vs West Ham?

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The 19-year-old academy starlet proved exactly why he appears set for a big future in the game at Elland Road, matching everything that Fulham tried to throw him with and even showing a superb range of passing too.

As per Sofascore, he won the most duels of any player on the pitch (12 of 18), and made the most interceptions, clearances and blocked shots of any of his Leeds teammates too.

That’s not to mention how good he looked in possession too, registering a game-high 121 touches – yes, you read that correctly – and 87 passes, while only Kalvin Phillips was ahead of him for most completed long balls.

And, writing in his post-match player ratings for Leeds Live, Beren Cross gave him an eight, saying: “Excellent display from the centre-back, who slotted in seamlessly to the defence. Was happy to mix it physically with the Fulham forwards and just as comfortable raking long passes over the top for his team-mates. Never looked troubled.”

Speaking about Cresswell earlier last season, former Leeds striker Noel Whelan was glowing in his praise about the 6 foot starlet, saying: “He is the future, he’s one for the future. At that centre-half position he’s got great attributes, he’s very calm on the ball, a great size to him, he’s quick, he can head, he can pass. He’s the modern-day, young centre-half.”

And, after pictures emerged of him in pre-season training looking more physically built than ever before, Whelan waxed lyrical about the kind of progress the teenager has made and touted him for big things.

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He added: “From the pictures, you can see he’s put in a lot of work, a lot of effort. He’s taking his role at the club very seriously about pushing Koch, Cooper, Llorente and Struijk. That’s good to see. I want to see that from young players.

“Cresswell, when he played last season in the EFL Cup game he was fantastic. He was a standout and he’s definitely one to the future. When you look at him now in stature, he doesn’t look like he’d be fazed coming up against any bigger centre-forwards. He is an absolute beast.”

These rave reviews, and his performance yesterday showed exactly why he could be a major player for Leeds in the coming years, and he absolutely stole the show for the Whites in their Carabao Cup clash against Fulham.

Meanwhile, this Leeds star is keen on a contract extension at Elland Road…

Article title: Forget Meslier: Leeds United’s Charlie Cresswell was Marcelo Bielsa’s real hero vs Fulham

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