Middlesbrough (V) Leeds United Player Ratings

Berardi tussles with Clayton – @SkyFootball

The early incumbents of the Championship’s automatic promotion places, Leeds United and Middlesbrough, played out a goalless draw at Elland Road on Friday night. Here’s our Player Ratings from a tight game.

Leeds United

Bailey Peacock-Farrell – after a recent loan spell at sixth-tier York City, the academy graduate has adjusted to this level with surprising confidence. He has proved a good shot-stopper, although that wasn’t the aspect of his game that drew the eye most here despite denying Ayala late on. It was his command of his area, his comfort in dealing with awkward set pieces and long throws into the box and his willingness to bark at his defenders when they make a mistake. Appears to be the definite solution to last season’s keeper conundrum. 8

Luke Ayling – the ex-Bristol City man’s forward passing from the right channel is normally a key part of the early stages of Leeds’ attacking moves; here though, Boro cottoned onto his importance and, especially in the first half, denied him space, which was problematic because Ayling lacks the pace to push in behind directly. 6
Gaetano Berardi – a full-back by trade, Berardi moved to centre-back at the start of the season in Jansson’s absence and has since become undroppable. His experience as a full-back arguably helped him because, in Bielsa system the central defenders must be strong in the challenge. Here, he enjoyed reasonable success in his one-on-one battles with Assombalonga; a sliding challenge on the striker saw him booked, but yellow cards are perhaps an occupational hazard. 8
Liam Cooper – the centre-back, returning from injury, did not look as confident in winning his aerial duels as he did on day one against Stoke. Although he didn’t exactly lose his individual battles, he didn’t win them in a way that allowed Leeds to sustain pressure quickly and front-foot defending will be the key to them getting back to their best. 6
Barry Douglas – the Scot was one of the best players in the Championship last season; here, he wasn’t a prominent influence on the game and saw far less of the ball in the opposing half than he did at Norwich last week, even if he still popped up with an excellent first half corner that found Ayling’s head. Bad challenge on Clayton early in the second half saw him booked; a below-par display. 5

Kalvin Phillips – with such a forward-thinking midfield around him, there is a lot of pressure on Phillips to hold things together when opponents break. Sometimes though, he lacked his usual aggression to win his duels and help get Leeds on the front foot. 5

Jack Harrison – after joining on loan from Man City, the winger wasn’t necessarily an instant hit but he was Leeds’ brightest attacking player here with his effective closing down and willingness to hold the width in possession; perhaps not a coincidence, given that his August minutes were fewer than others. One or two of his long-range shots might have been more accurate. 6
Mateusz Klich – the Pole is so often the man linking play in the opposing half and breaking into goalscoring positions. We saw flashes of that here and he certainly showed a willingness to drag markers back by making third-man runs towards the byline. Might have been quicker to second balls in central areas but a decent game. 6
Samuel Saiz – the enigmatic enganche excels at finding gaps in between the opposition’s defence and midfield; here though, he was unable to do so and this his is an excellent dribbling, creativity and eye for goal didn’t come to the fore. A wayward, long-range effort on 10 minutes was an early sign that he wasn’t quite on his usual game. 4
10 Ezgjan Alioski – all game, the workmanlike winger only managed 38 touches, which is the same number as Leeds’ goalkeeper. Struggled to get the better of Shotton and, when Pablo Hernandez is back available, Alioski could be a stronger contender than Harrison to drop out. 4

Kemar Roofe – the former Oxford forward, who started the season in excellent form, didn’t have things all his own way here. While he closed down just as selflessly as he always does, his touch, control and quality in tight areas that we have come to expect was not quite there. Fired over with a speculative effort in the second minute of the second half in a disappointing display. 5

Pontus Jansson (on 88) – the fact he was the man who dropped out for Cooper suggests Bielsa wants his centre-backs to defend on the front foot; for all Jansson’s strengths, it remains to be seen whether that is in his repertoire, considering that his stand-out season in 2016-17 came when he started alongside Kyle Bartley. 5

Patrick Bamford (on 90) – when the forward signed from Middlesbrough, Bamford might have expected to become first choice instantly but Roofe’s blistering start has reduced his opportunities to substitute appearances and the odd start in the EFL Cup. 5
Stuart Dallas (on 90+2) – before this match, the wide man had only played 14 minutes of league football since mid-April, partly due to injury, so he must be introduced gradually. 5

Middlesbrough

Darren Randolph – the former Birmingham stopper had saved 14 of the 16 shots on target he had faced prior to this fixture. Here, he wasn’t over-worked but the accuracy of kicking, for which he normally looked for Shotton on the right, was mixed. 6

Daniel Ayala – the Spaniard, who scored the injury-time winner last week, posed a threat from set pieces and defended his own box well. Held his ground well in the first half and headed Boro’s best second half chance wide of the far post late on before being booked for a bad challenge on Klich. 7
Aden Flint – the ex-Bristol City man is a massive threat from set plays; in the Championship before tonight, only two centre-backs have had more attempts at goal than his six. Didn’t have the same type of impact here, although he did block Alioski’s shot early in the second half en route to the clean sheet. 7
Dael Fry – the academy graduate has been around the fringes of Boro’s first team for a few seasons but now, he appears to have taken his chance superbly. The biggest compliment that can be paid to Fry is that when Ayala was back available, Pulis felt compelled to change to a back-three so as not to drop Fry. Showed a willingness to carry the ball into the opposing half at times and made good decisions defensively. 9

Ryan Shotton – the common consensus on Shotton before this season was that he is a centre-back and deploying him as a full-back or wing-back would be asking him to show qualities – mainly pace – that he doesn’t have. The ex-Stoke man though has started the season in good form; he shows plenty of endeavour down the right-hand side and gets real distance on his long throws, too. 7
Muhamed Besic – characteristically, Besic was certainly not shy to get stuck in and was always willing to track Klich’s runs. The Bosnian’s use of the ball left a little to be desired, in open play, at least; his free-kick set up Boro’s best chance of the second half for Ayala. 6
Jonny Howson – the midfielder, returning to the club he captained to League One promotion in 2010, presses intelligently and is capable of winning free-kicks in good areas; he has a decent shot on him, too. Perhaps those qualities might have come to the fore more had Boro used the more ambitious system that we saw from them against West Brom last week; when the Teessiders enjoyed their better spells, he was at the heart of them. 7
Adam Clayton – protected the defence well and showed aggression when needed, clearing Ayling’s first half header off the line in a gritty  performance that highlighted his value to Tony Pulis’ side. On the receiving end of a bad challenge from Douglas after the break. 8
George Friend – the Boro stalwart works hard and links up intelligently with his teammates, even if he lacks the pace required to attack the flank individually. Defended his box well. 6

Stewart Downing – the ex-Villa man is an impressive technician; he showed that against West Brom last week. Unfortunately though, he lacks the pace to instigate counter-attacks, which he needed to with players behind him showing little intent to overlap. Struggled to get on the ball in good areas for that reason; no blame attached to Downing, this simply wasn’t his type of game. 4

Britt Assombalonga – the former Forest forward is not as quick as he was when he starred for Peterborough half a decade ago and that was problematic in a defensive system. He still pressed intelligently but played largely with his back to goal, so Leeds’ centre-backs weren’t overly stretched. 4