Patrick Bamford’s 16th goal of the season saw Leeds United crush Southampton 2-0 at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Tuesday. The Whites entered the fixture on the back of a phenomenal run of results, which saw them inflict two crushing defeats on Tottenham and Burnley. The Saints’ efforts to end the season on a high note after a stellar FA Cup run to the semi-finals and two consecutive victories in the Premier League faltered in front of the fans.
Here are the talking points from Leeds vs Southampton fixture:
Leeds United are having a stellar debut season after a long absence from the Premier League. Marcelo Bielsa’s men have impressed fans with their attacking brand of football, not shying away from taking risks even against giants – a strategy which saw them inflict defeats on the likes of champions Manchester City and Leicester. But more impressive has been their return to form in the last quarter of the season; the Whites have now won six of their last 10 games and lost just one, netting 21 points to their tally – the highest for any club in the Premier League.
The Saints had a mixed season by all accounts, making it to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League. They had lost seven of their last 10 games but looked on course to make a strong finish when they registered back-to-back victories against Crystal Palace and Fulham. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men also had the added advantage of fan support, as St. Mary’s was opened up to the fans for the first time since December.
Marcelo Bielsa made three changes to his side, with Liam Cooper and Rodrigo joining the starting XI in place of Tyler Roberts and Pascal Struijk.
Marcelo Bielsa has fielded a different defensive combination as Robin Koch and Mateusz Klich were rested ahead of the Euro 2020 tournament and goalkeeper Kiko Casilla made his second appearance of the season. Southampton dominated the play in the first half, so much so that the famed Leeds attack did not manage a single shot on target before half-time. But Southampton’s attackers could not convert their opportunities; out of their 15 shots on Tuesday night, only three were on target.
The Whites grew into the game in the second half, with Patrick Bamford threatening the hosts early on with a shot just wide off target. Stuart Dallas and Pascal Struijk had back-to-back efforts within seconds of the initial attack, but Saints goalkeeper McCarthy did well to block the shots. Bamford’s collision with Mohammed Salisu might have given Marcelo Bielsa some concern, but the star striker quickly recovered to put the ball in the net in the 73rd minute, putting Leeds on top.
A VAR check prevented Leeds from adding to their tally when Bamford was ruled offside just 10 minutes later. The Saints could not recover from the blow, and Leeds piled more misery on them at the end when substitute Tyler Roberts converted a rebound ball from Patrick Bamford’s effort. Bamford is now the fifth highest goalscorer in the Premier League and has scored the highest number of goals outside the ‘big six’ clubs.
TOP-HALF FINISH CONFIRMED FOR LEEDS
With the victory on Tuesday, the Whites have climbed to eighth in the Premier League table, moving past Arsenal and Everton. Leeds have accumulated 56 points from their 37 games, with 21 points coming from their last 10 games. With just one week of action remaining in the season, Marcelo Bielsa’s men have confirmed a top-10 finish as Aston Villa are far behind with 49 points.
There have been doubts at the start of the season when Marcelo Bielsa brought his attacking brand of football to the Premier League, with pundits expressing the concern that the strategy would not work against top-tier clubs. Not only have Leeds crushed the smaller clubs in the league, but they have put on a spectacular performance against the ‘big six’ clubs, including a few victories.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE HOPES
While the chances are slim, the Whites have a theoretical possibility of entering a European tournament this season – the Europa Conference League qualifiers. The Whites have to finish seventh to book a spot in the first round of the qualifiers. If West Ham lose their next two games, and both Everton and Arsenal do not secure wins in their last games next week, Marcelo Bielsa will be aiming at a big win against West Brom to take the club to the seventh spot. With focus now shifting to strengthening the squad for the next Premier League season, the Whites will be keen to conclude the season on a high note.
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