Leeds United 4-0 West Brom Player Ratings: Ayling back to his best?

Pablo Hernandez fires in the (very) early opener – bbc.co.uk

A stunning performance from Leeds United saw them trounce Championship promotion rivals West Bromwich Albion 4-0 at Elland Road on Friday night. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Leeds United

Kiko Casilla – since signing from Real Madrid, Casilla has grown increasingly comfortable between the sticks at Leeds. Although he was not overly worked here, he did well to tip Rodriguez’s 33 minute effort over the bar – and showed the initiative to rush out and head the ball forward on one occasion to help sustain the intensity of Leeds’ performance. 7

Luke Ayling – after an indifferent few weeks, Ayling appeared to be back to the Ayling we all know and love; quick to second balls, aggressive in the press – sometimes he even pushed over to the opposite channel to cut moves out – and incisive, accurate forward passes, which made him one of the best players on the pitch. 9
Pontus Jansson – the Swede only headed the ball away from the penalty area once in this match and that was in a relatively unthreatening situation, so perhaps his work reveals more about West Brom than anything else. Completed 80% of his passes, which is the optimum percentage – used the ball sensibly enough to retain possession, but audaciously enough to contribute productively to attacking moves. 7
Liam Cooper – the centre-back attempted two tackles in the opposing half, completing one, plus a total of four interceptions with one above the halfway line. Cooper is naturally a combative operator who likes to fly into challenges, but his actions do highlight the ferocity with which Marcelo Bielsa has his side pressing. Not asked to carry out last-ditch defending at any point, which suggest he and Jansson, plus the team generally, must have done the initial phases of the defensive work well enough to pre-empt more searching challenges. 7
Ezgjan Alioski – the marauding Macedonian made some driving forward runs which contributed to a high-tempo performance. In that sense, he looks most suited to playing at left-back rather than on the wing and, remarkably, a player of Barry Douglas’ quality could have a real problem getting back into the eleven. With Leeds three goals ahead in the final minute of injury-time, he showed real hunger to break into the box and tap home at the back-post, when so many players in his situation – without Marcelo Bielsa as manager, perhaps – would be cruising through the game. 9

Kalvin Phillips – the holding midfielder set the tone for an aggressive display from Leeds, putting in strong challenges in the first half. Appeared to be limping though towards the end of the half, yet proved his fitness within the first five minutes of the second period, impeccably breaking up two opposition attacks, before then doing something similar in the lead-up to the third goal. 8

Pablo Hernandez – the sparkling Spaniard was back to his absolute best. In the first 16 seconds, he unleashed a wonderful effort that flew into the top left-hand corner – and quite rightly, Hernandez took confidence from that. He slid through various beautifully delicate through balls, plus one delightful cross-field pass towards the end of the first half, making him key to the home side’s creative play. A magnificent display. 9
Tyler Roberts – one advantage of having a forward by trade in an advanced midfield role is that they can be hard to pick up; another is that they are more natural in the striker position when they get there and Roberts produced a delightfully cute through ball to set up Bamford’s second. The former West Brom man relished facing his old club even more in the second half, when he produced a number of driving forward runs including one that set up the third goal.
Mateusz Klich – produced some good forward passes and at times combined well with Roberts, whilst breaking forward with freedom. 7
Jack Harrison – the winger did some excellent work down the left that led to Hernandez’s very early opener. Not only did he give Leeds width, he also showed a willingness to do the dirty side of the game, which is not always seen from players who have been schooled in Premier League academies; clearly, Marcelo Bielsa has had a strong influence on his development. The awareness of changing responsibilities enabled him to alternate duties with Alioski seamlessly on the left. 8

Patrick Bamford – we have known for the last half a decade that Bamford is an excellent goalscorer at Championship level, so the coolness with which he tucked away the second and third goals from inside the box was not a surprise. Perhaps more surprising, considering reports of how Leeds have played in Kemar Roofe’s absence, was the tenacity with which he led the press, even closing down the goalkeeper at one stage. 9

Stuart Dallas (on 77) – the experienced, versatile wide man carried the ball forward and used it well at times as Leeds managed the game effectively. 7
Jamie Shackleton (on 90+2) – the academy graduate was certainly not shackled in the final two minutes, because he added pace and youthful exuberance, bursting into the penalty area to lay the ball on a plate for Alioski to tap home. 8

West Bromwich Albion

Sam Johnstone – it would be harsh to blame Johnstone too much for the first goal, which was an excellent strike from distance. He was subsequently beaten by a good finish for the second goal, then deceived by a deflection for the third and undone by some excellent play for the fourth. Johnstone is normally a good shot-stopper and, while conceding four goals does not represent a good performance, it did not feel like he was responsible for the defeat. 5

Mason Holgate – the right-back was caught too far up the pitch in the lead-up to Leeds’ opener, then had an erratic moment prior to Bamford’s second. Typically, Holgate likes to get a feel for the ball, find his bearings and then pick his passes but the intensity of the opposition’s performance made it very hard for him to settle. 4
Ahmed Hegazi – the Egyptian’s main selling point is his aerial ability – and he only won one duel here, simply because the opponents played so much football on the deck. Although Hegazi might be a useful player with which to face direct sides who rely on a target man like Millwall and Rotherham, he did not quite hack it against a more mobile, interchanging outfit. 4
Craig Dawson – the centre-back was guilty of ball-watching prior to Bamford’s first goal goal, rather than tracking the striker, then deflected his shot into the net early in the second half. While there were one or two reasonable blocks in Dawson’s performance, it was a roundly hapless display from the former Rochdale man. 4
Tosin Adarabioyo – the Manchester City loanee had struggled at right-back prior to Holgate’s arrival, so a rare start in an unusual left-back position in such a difficult game was always likely to faze him. Although it is tempting to blame Adarabioyo for not closing down more often, it is also possible that he did not have quite the right defensive support to enable him to feel comfortable to do so. Headed just wide on 33 minutes following a right-wing corner. 5

Gareth Barry – the 38-year-old appeared to struggle with the speed of the contest. He put in some mistimed challenges in the first half, one of which earning a yellow; when he made another early in the second period, he was perhaps fortunate that the referee was in patient mood. Unsurprisingly taken off after one second half exchange. 4
Jake Livermore – the experienced midfielder did a lot of work tracking back helping Adarabioyo, which meant that he was not always high up the pitch as he needed to be to provide structural balance and keep the right distance between defence and attack. Then again, when he did get further up, he allowed his opponents to get past him without too much difficult, as we saw in the lead-up to the third goal. 4
Rekeem Harper – the young midfielder was not short on energy, but he did give possession away cheaply on one or two occasions and nerves might have got to him at times. In a midfield that was otherwise aging and short on mobility, with limited cover out wide, Harper was perhaps given too much to do in a climate that might have been very intimidating for the academy graduate. 5

Hal Robson-Kanu – the former Reading man is naturally a hardworking striker, but his role normally entails him to press rather than track back. The latter duty is more important when operating as a wide forward and Robson-Kanu found it difficult to fulfil the remit, leaving Holgate exposed at times. Withdrawn just before the 70 minute mark. 3
Jay Rodriguez – in his first action of the match, forced the first save from Casilla on 33 minutes with a speculative first-time effort that was tipped over. Alas, that was the best moment of Rodriguez’s afternoon. Difficult to tell whether the former Burnley man’s 17-goal tally is down to him being a natural false nine in Darren Moore’s system, or rather a very good player for this level who has been capable of playing in a position that does not entirely suit him and still perform well. 5
Dwight Gayle – the striker’s main, crucial selling point at Championship level is his finishing ability, so playing him on the left of a front-three in such an important away game seems slightly naïve from Darren Moore. The player in his position should have been back, closing down Hernandez for that first goal but it is difficult to be overly critical of him for not doing that – because it is not the type of role he is used to. 3

James Morrison (on 63) – the experienced midfielder replaced Barry to offer some creativity; in fairness, he did show some decent touches and, in the circumstances, linked play reasonably well in the opposing half. 6
Sam Field (on 65) – some might argue the bright, left-footed midfielder should have come on for Livermore, rather than Harper to ensure slightly fresher legs. 5
Jefferson Montero (on 70) – the winger came on with the hope of providing pace and width down the left, but being right-footed he often found himself running into traffic and was well-shepherded in the closing stages. 5