Leeds United 3-1 Stoke City Player Ratings: Hernandez shines

 

Cooper celebrates Leeds’ third – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport

Marcelo Bielsa’s introduction to English football – or should that be vice-versa? – went off with a bang as Leeds United thrashed Stoke City 3-1 on the opening day of the 2018-19 Championship season.

Leeds United

Bailey Peacock-Farrell – after Jamal Blackman joined, some questioned whether Peacock-Farrell would keep his place, despite some encouraging form at the end of last season. The one-time York City loanee was quick off his line when called upon and made two decent stops late on to pre-empt potential for a nervy ending. 7

Luke Ayling – offered intelligence down the right and looked to combine with teammates in tight areas. The ex-Bristol City man was aggressive in the challenge and contributed to the intensity of the team’s performance. 8
Gaetano Berardi – gave the ball away on one occasion in the first half, a mistake that could have been costly and he also conceded the second half penalty with a foul on Ince. Berardi otherwise fared reasonably well in an unnatural position, but there is potential for Pontus Jansson to come back in. 6
Liam Cooper – discipline had been a problem last season for Cooper, but he channelled his aggression positively here: the ex-Chesterfield man bailed out Berardi once or twice in the first half and was composed in possession, meaning his well-placed second half header completed a fine all-round display. 9
Barry Douglas – the Scot had arguably the best left-foot in the Championship last season with high-quality deliveries from set pieces; here, we saw more of that with a pin-point corner whipped into a dangerous area leading to the third goal. Not only that, Douglas overloaded the left flank with excellent awareness. 9

Kalvin Phillips – on the opening day last season, Phillips regularly broke into attacking areas and was rewarded with a brace. Here, he aggressively breaking up attacks and offering the centre-backs an option in possession; this might have been a more circumspect performance, but it was also more effective. 8
Mateusz Klich – surprisingly, based on today, the Pole actually struggled for game time at Elland Road in the first half of last season, but a productive loan spell with FC Utrecht appears to have boosted his confidence hugely. Klich overloaded the wide areas superbly and took his goal with aplomb; he might have been disappointed to mishit a second half sitter but was always willing to get forward. 9

Pablo Hernandez – the Spaniard’s main, enduring quality last season was his ability to come up with a pin-point delivery, even during quiet performances; here though, he was a constant influence on proceedings due to his clever movement and cute flicks. On one or two occasions, the passes he tried were almost too good for his teammates to get on the end of, but that only serves to highlight the audacity Leeds are so far showing. 9
Samuel Saiz – the enigmatic dribbler posed a real threat, going on a mazy run for the opener before picking the perfect moment to slide his teammate in. There were brief spells when Leeds went longer or opted to manage proceedings and Saiz drifted out slightly, but that’s to be expected: whenever he got on the ball, he was a massive, massive threat. 9
Ezgjan Alioski – the busy wide man offers a strong work rate and made some excellent deliveries, including one for Roofe early on. Marcelo Bielsa appears to be developing the technical side of his game to match his undoubted endeavour. 8

Kemar Roofe – the intelligent forward pressed incredibly well in the false nine role and created space for others. Harsh as it might seem to question anything Roofe does after an outstanding performance, there were a couple of instances when he didn’t quite have the pace to latch onto a ball in behind. Given the amount of work Leeds forwards will have to get through, Bielsa could do with looking at a more athletic striker with a goalscoring instinct to offer variety and competition with Patrick Bamford and Roofe – but the ex-Oxford man more than played his part. 8

Stuart Dallas (on 76) – the versatile wide man always works hard up and down the flank, but as we saw on one counter-attack, he lacks the pace to truly set pulses racing. 5
Lewis Baker (on 88) – aside from helping MK Dons to League One promotion in 2014-15, Baker is yet to make an impact on English football, despite having been contracted to Chelsea for 13 years; he briefly helped managed proceeding here though. 6
Jack Harrison (on 89) – the exciting wide man didn’t quite make the impact he might have hoped for in a Tony Pulis side, but the Man City loanee looked bright here in his short time on the pitch and should be used in a system tailored to his strengths. 6

Stoke City

Jack Butland – there had been doubts about whether Butland would stay and, perhaps, an uncertain summer has impacted on his preparation. The Birmingham academy graduate should have done better with Hernandez’s goal just before half-time, even if he wasn’t to blame for Stoke’s defeat. 4

Moritz Bauer – the long time he deliberated over simple throw-ins encapsulated Stoke’s performance. Too busy appealing for offside to help his side in the build-up to the first goal, the Austrian lacked the energy we saw in the second half of last season. 3
Ryan Shawcross – there had been question marks about Shawcross’ pace last term; his lack of thereof was also a real issue here as Leeds’ midfield runners got in behind at will. At times, the fear of the 30-year-old getting exposed was part of what made Stoke’s midfield reluctant to impose itself on the contest with more bravery. 2
Bruno Martins Indi – the 26-year-old was dragged out of position at times by Roofe, but wasn’t necessarily the chief culprit for Stoke’s defeat. Forced a good save from Peacock-Farrell with a late header. 4
Erik Pieters – a doubt pre-match and, perhaps, his fitness was not quite at the level it could have been. Struggled to handle Leeds when they overloaded the flank and his passing was very careless. 3

Badou Ndiaye – the ball-winner made an impact in the second half of last season with his energy and tenacity, but we saw very little of that here. Allowed  forward runners to get behind him far too easily. 2
Oghenekaro Etebo – after an impressive World Cup with Nigeria, Etebo looked jaded; he didn’t press as far up the pitch as expected, which meant Stoke were often forced back into their defensive third. 2
Joe Allen – the absence of a creative outlet was a big factor in Stoke’s poor passing. While Allen worked hard enough and showed some decent touches in the second half, he’s not the type of midfielder to start attacks with any real conviction or drive. 4

Tom Ince – in a poor Stoke performance, Ince looked the most likely player to produce something out of nothing: he hit the bar in the first half and won the penalty early in the second. His defensive awareness might be questioned though. 5
Benik Afobe – having fired Wolves to the title last season, Afobe was an exciting signing for Stoke this summer. However, he’d had fitness issues leading up to this game and, perhaps, that hindered the intensity of his performance, mainly in terms of pressing but also ruthlessness on the rare occasions when he did get the ball. Scored a penalty, but did almost nothing else. 3
James McClean – worked hard down the left flank and couldn’t be criticized for a lack of defensive awareness; he was even able to pick-pocket Berardi in the first half. However, his lack of accuracy in that moment shows he wasn’t much more than a workhorse. 4

Bojan (on 63) – looked bright and inventive; Gary Rowett might be tempted to sacrifice one midfielder to fit him into the side behind a main striker. Potentially an excellent player at this level if he can stay mentally and physically prepared. 7
Darren Fletcher (on 63) – offered an element of control to proceedings, even if his legs are no longer quite as strong as his heart. 6
Peter Crouch (on 75) – the veteran target man put himself about as best he could, but shouldn’t be considered a starting option for the Potters. 6