Leeds United 2-0 Derby County Six Things: 007 strikes in Whites victory

Roofe and Alioski celebrate – bbc.co.uk

The morality of Marcelo Bielsa’s decision to instruct a spying session on Derby County’s training ground can be debated, but not the quality of his Leeds United title-contenders, which goals from Kemar Roofe and Jack Harrison re-emphasized in a 2-0 win over the Rams. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Leeds’ strong start

It was a high-pressure opening from Leeds, who saw a continuation of the week’s theme of controversy in the first minute, when they were denied a penalty due to a dubious offside flag, after Andre Wisdom tripped marauding auxiliary left-back, Ezgjan Alioski.

There were doubts about Pablo Hernandez’s fitness going into the game but the sparkling Spaniard linked play superbly on the edge of the final third.

After his eighth-minute corner saw Liam Cooper get ahead of George Evans, the ball bounced tantalizingly over the crossbar, before Kemar Roofe’s scuffed effort from the edge of the area gave Derby another warning sign.

Defensive Derby

What will disappoint Derby fans is that, despite displaying the quality to suggest they can take on any Championship side on their day, they looked reluctant engage with possession.

Tom Lawrence posed a rare first half effort at goal but, with no positive runners around him, Leeds players could put all their energies into stopping him and that shortened the time he had to dig his shot out.

When Derby did start to get further up, they did not press with the intensity we have come to expect from them.

Clarke stars

Jack Clarke is a delightful talent. After Hernandez’s ()-minute corner was punched away unconvincingly by Scott Carson, he exploited the wide space with Max Lowe reluctant to push out, breezing past Craig Bryson before teeing up Kemar Roofe for a close-range tap-in.

Early in the second half, he continued the theme of tormenting Lowe before crossing to the back-post; Jack Harrison bundled the ball home after impressive auxiliary left-back Ezgjan Alioski kept it in play.
Leeds began to lose their positional bearings, caught on the break.
This could be where they suffer without Phillips and Forshaw

Bielsa’s switch

For the second period, Derby had bought on David Nugent to partner Jack Marriott to aid their pressing and Bielsa was quick to that development. He instructed intelligent right-back Luke Ayling to form a back three with Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, who both produced superbly committed displays, outnumbering the duo.

Although Derby were the side who needed to score the game’s third goal, therefore, the intensity of their play was not compliant with the situation and it was Leeds who looked the likelier.

Once Jamie Shackleton injected fresh energy with his movement off the ball as a wing-back, Clarke relished the extra space to cut inside. He created further openings for Hernandez, who should have been given a penalty for Lawrence’s trip, then Roofe, who missed the contact that would have got him the brace he deserved for an excellent centre-forward’s display.

Fluid Whites spy top two spot

It is the flexibility of Leeds that sees them stand-out so much at this level.

On paper, Mateusz Klich pushing up from midfield might increase the burden on Adam Forshaw on dealing with opposition counter-attacks but here, he and attacking midfielder Hernandez rotated so that one covered the gaps when the other pushed on.

Klich and Hernandez were certainly not playing this well under Thomas Christiansen or Paul Heckingbottom, so their displays highlight the value of Bielsa’s world-class tactical input.

With question marks about every team below them, Leeds have an excellent chance of securing automatic promotion.

Where Rams must strengthen

Derby County have broadly been more exciting to watch this season and in that sense, Frank Lampard deserves immense credit.

However, a factor behind the unusually tame performance tonight might be the dearth of a reliable holding midfielder next to the tenacious Bryson, because both George Evans, who started and Tom Huddlestone, an unused substitute, can be slightly languid out of possession.

Richard Keogh, although a fine servant to the club, has looked somewhat shaky in recent weeks and it might be that Lampard did not quite back him to thrive in open spaces against aggressive opposition.

For that reason, Lampard needs a defensive midfielder and a centre-back before he has a team that can win promotion.