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Player Ratings: Sunderland 0 - 2 Leeds United

It’s the Saiz and Alioski show.

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

Becchio was in the stands to watch probably the best league performance put on by Leeds United this season. While the pre-game build up focused all on the absence of Chris Wood, once the game got settled, it seemed to make little difference as the wizardry of Gianni Alioski and Samu Saiz took over the match.

STARTING LINEUP

Felix Wiedwald: Didn’t have a lot to do, in all honesty, but did well enough any time he was tested. Does wonderful things building the attack out of the back and was largely not needed to come out for corners or crosses as Jansson and Cooper made sure anything that got near them got sent to row Z. Got a silly yellow for time-wasting, but beyond that had a fine game. 6/10

Luke Ayling: Another fine match for what has to be one of the best right backs in the league. Combined well in the offensive side of the ball with Alioski to put an enormous amount of pressure on Sunderland’s Brendan Galloway, and did well to snuff out attacks on the wing from McGeady and N’Dong for Sunderland. 7/10

Liam Cooper(c): A fine match from one half of the central defence partnership for Leeds. Did the small, simple things right, allowing Jansson the time and space to go out and do Jansson things. Only a couple times during the match was a Sunderland player able to get any freedom in the box, and the one time that he seemed to switch off, as Jones put the ball into the side netting, he seemed to own up to the mistake and took credit rather than point fingers at other players. He’s been a good captain and his play has kept Director of Football Victor Orta away from calling around for another central defender. 6/10

Pontus Jansson: As usual, the Swedish rock at the back. After missing the first two matches of the season due to suspension, Jansson has been outstanding. It’s worth noting that Leeds have now had three clean sheets in a row, and the team has not allowed a single goal since Jansson has stepped back into the side. He seems to win every single ariel ball that is directed towards the spot, and makes Wiedwald’s job a hundred times easier because of his dominance in the air. 7.5/10

Vurnon Anita: Perhaps it was the return to the Stadium of Light for the former Newcastle man, perhaps it was the focus of the attack down the other side of the pitch, but Anita had a fairly anonymous match. Wasn’t caught out very often on defence, but rarely seemed to get forward with any attacking flair. Was difficult for him to cross as a right-footed player playing left-back, but did well enough to keep Sunderland off the score sheet. 6/10

Eunan O’Kane: Another good performance in the middle of the pitch for the Republic of Ireland international. Was composed on the ball and did well to recover the ball when the forward players turned it over looking for the final ball into the box. Combines well with Kalvin Phillips to both be able to help shield the defence and also provide a link between the defenders and the attack. 7/10

Kalvin Phillips: Another good performance from the young midfielder. If the rumors surrounding Liam Bridcutt are to be believed, Phillips and Vieira are the reason why the seasoned veteran is on his way out of the club. Looked good on the ball again today, and while he hasn’t had a game like he did against Bolton Wanderers, he was quietly effective along with O’Kane. 6/10

Gianni Alioski: Finally had a break-out game in the league as he showed exactly what all of the fuss was about during preseason. After getting fouled and hacked down against both Fulham and Preston, Alioski will haunt the nightmares of Sunderland’s Galloway for weeks, if not months, to come. Drew two yellow cards for bad challenges from Sunderland players, and created a wonderful goal that Saiz was able to score and picked out Saiz for the Spaniard to cross to a wide-open Stuart Dallas to put the match away for Leeds United. 8/10

Pablo Hernandez: Started well, and combined well with Samu Saiz and Alioski behind Caleb Ekuban. Came off early because of an injury, but was already starting to show that both him and Saiz can be on the pitch at the same time and be effective, even if they both tend to drift to the same spots on the pitch. 5/10

Samu Saiz: What a performance. Scored the opening goal and assisted on the second goal before coming off in the 81st minute as Christiansen brought on Mateusz Klich to seal the deal away from home. Looks to be one of the best buys of the summer transfer window, and the opening goal seemed to set him free. He took his goal very well, taking the ball in stride and always looked to shoot, slotting the ball home past the helpless Sunderland keeper. The assist he had on the Dallas goal was also fantastic, as everyone in the Stadium of Light thought the ball was headed for the head of Kemar Roofe, only he sent the ball over Roofe’s head to the unmarked Stuart Dallas. Absolute class. 8/10

Caleb Ekuban: Needs some time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the English Championship. While he played well in stretches, seemed to be second best with the ball at his feet in the box. Pulled up short after running down a ball, hopefully not out for long. Leeds will not be able to rely on him to be the long-term solution at striker this season. 4/10

SUBSTITUTES

Kemar Roofe: The young forward/winger had to come on in the first half after Pablo Hernandez went down. While he has pace and can get into attacking positions, his passing and creativity are a step down from Hernandez. Played a good “dummy” on the Dallas goal, drawing both defenders, but not entirely sure that he knew too much about it. A decent shift, but to regain his starting place, he’s going to have to do more. 5/10

Stuart Dallas: The Northern Ireland international winger did a great job coming off the bench for the injured Caleb Ekuban, heading home the second goal of the match. Didn’t do a whole lot else in the match, but didn’t have to as Saiz and Alioski stole the show. 6/10

Mateusz Klich: Came on in for the last nine minutes of regular time and stoppage time to cement the win for Leeds. Wasn’t involved very much in the play, but the game was already won by the time he came on for Saiz. 5/10

Florida Snake Hunter Aims To Curb Rampant Python Population
Chris Wood on the trip back to Leeds from Sunderland
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Chris Wood: Snake. 0/10

A fine performance by the lads, good to come home and continue the unbeaten run after two scoreless draws while getting yet another clean sheet. Man of the Match goes to Samu Saiz, but Gianni Alioski could easily have been it as well today. Remember, they cost a combined £6.5 million, so when a replacement for Wood is announced, and if it’s some guy you have to google and it’s cheaper than you expect, it’s not always about the transfer fee.

MOT