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Match Recap: Samu Saiz and Gianni Alioski run riot and Leeds United win 2-0 over Sunderland

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Leeds pair step up and win at the Stadium of Light

Sunderland v Leeds United - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

With all of the drama surrounding Chris Wood and his impending move to what will likely be Burnley, it was easy to forget that Leeds were going to be facing probably the toughest test of the young season as the team travels to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland in the League for the first time almost a decade. Leeds United was able to put the imminent departure of Wood behind them to get a good result in what will be one of the bigger away matches of the season.

Ten minutes in Caleb Ekuban did well to get open in the box after Hernandez picked him out in the box, but he did not turn and shoot fast enough and was closed down quickly. A couple different times turning the opening few minutes it seemed that Ekuban needs to adjust to the speed and physicality of the Championship. why Wood needs to be replaced quickly if Leeds are to get anything out of this season.

Liam Cooper headed the ball off his own crossbar and out at the 20th minute after Vaughan and Grabban hit on the break. While Grabban did well to wait and get a clean shot on net, Cooper headed the ball off the line, off the crossbar, and out.

Less than a minute later, Alioski did very well to work the ball past Kone in the Sunderland box and Samu Saiz got the ball and the Spaniard make no mistake and put the ball into the back of the net. Saiz and Alioski did well combining down the left with Sunderland’s left back, Galloway, looking shell-shocked as the quick Macedonian slotted around him multiple times to get the ball towards the box.

Pablo Hernandez was subbed off after it appeared he injured himself in the first half after running into another Leeds player in the first half. Kemar Roofe came on for Hernandez. Hopefully the injury isn’t serious, because it appeared that Hernandez and Saiz put to rest the idea that the two of them can’t play in the same team by combining well in the first half. Hernandez’s last play in the match was even to connect to a good cross from Said that came in from the right hand side of the box.

31st minute once again found Alioski in acres of space and his low cross/shot only found the back touchline. About five minutes later, Brendan Galloway was finally booked for his late tackle on Alioski.

Leeds’ good fortune continued at the start of the second half as the team continued to press forward with little response from Sunderland.

Both Galloway and Vaughan were subbed off for Khazri and Matthews in the 55th minute. As the announcer had said that the Galloway had a problem, the TV feed nshowed the fullback standing near Gianni Alioski, almost as if the cameraman was showing exactly what Galloway’s problem.

Kone did well for Sunderland on the backline, as he was able to snuff out Ekuban during much of the game. Ekuban pulled up hurt and was forced off in the 61st minute and was replaced by Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas. A number of good chances were wasted by Ekuban, and while it would be unreasonable to assume that he could have converted all or even most of them, there were a couple attacks that would have likely been finished by a more talented or more experienced forward.

Leeds United’s goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald goalkeeper was booked for time wasting in the 68th minute rather harshly, as it appeared that there was some confusion as to where Weidwald would be taking the free kick.

Alioski took too long to shoot in the 72nd minute and was closed down by a Sunderland defender but the intent was there to score another. More good work from Leeds was rewarded as Saiz picked out an totally unmarked Stuart Dallas in the minute and he made no mistake and put a fine header into the net for a second goal.

Poland international Mateusz Klich came on for Saiz in the 81st minute in order to close out the win. Alioksi was put into some discomfort late in the match by a needless challenge by Didier N’Dong that received a yellow card.

A late chance from Jones only hit the side netting as he was left unmarked after a fine cross from Aiden McGeady fell at his feet, but that was about the extent of the attacking efforts from Sunderland. It was duly noted that Simon Grayson had never beaten Leeds United as an opposing manager, and the steak continued in fine fashion today.

Despite the ill feelings for Leeds fans going into the match, the team did well to respond to the controversy surrounding their want-away star striker. Normally when a player scores a goal and creates another, he is the clear winner of the man of the match award, but such was Gianni Alioski’s performance that it’s not as clear cut as you would normally expect. Saiz gets the nod from me today, but I wouldn’t argue too much if someone else gave it to Alioski.

A big “thank you” should also go to both the defence and Felix Wiedwald for keeping a third straight clean sheet. While he wasn’t tested very much, the big German did enough to keep the ball out of the back of the net and Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper did very well to once again provide a remarkable wall in front of him. Seriously, how does Jansson not get a concussion every match?

The only worrying part were the injuries to both Pablo Hernandez and Caleb Ekuban. Kemar Roofe did well enough playing as a striker, but that’s not going to be ideal for the club to have him as a lone striker. Stuart Dallas and Roofe could fill in on the wing if Hernandez is out, but long-term a fit Hernandez will be needed to keep the team in matches against stronger Championship sides for his vision and dead-ball delivery.

All’s well that ends well, though, and the team will feel quite good about the performance, the clean sheet, and three points heading back to Elland Road. MOT