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Player Grades: Nottingham Forest 0 - 2 Leeds United

Leeds glide to a famous victory over promotion rivals Forest

Nottingham Forest v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Leeds United came into the City Ground with a top of the table match-up against Nottingham Forest. Leeds couldn’t keep the undefeated streak and the clean sheet sustained, could they? I said in the preview that I picked a 2-1 win with my heart, but was fully expecting a 1-1 draw.

So yeah, what the hell do I know.

A commanding 2-0 victory over a previously high-flying Forest side, once again without a recognized “striker” in the lineup, although Kemar Roofe has staked his claim to the starting striker role quite well. Samu Saiz and Gianni Alioski also shined well in this match were Leeds rarely looked second best.

STARTING LINEUP

Felix Wiedwald: While Wiedwald was having perhaps his best match as keeper for Leeds, Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner was confirming to reporters that Rob Green was due for a medical at Huddersfield with a view to a permanent transfer. It says a lot about the ability of Wiedwald that the departure of Green is causing no more than a wimper. The big German made a number of key saves, but for me, the best display of why he’s the starting keeper at Leeds right now was late in the first half. Off of a rather tame back-pass, Wiedwald had the ball at his feet with a charging Forest attacker. Rather than panic or hoof the ball aimlessly up the pitch, Wiedwald sent the ball on the floor up to Alioski on the right wing, where the winger then started an attack the other way, dribbling right past Forest’s Armand Traore. Green will never be able to give that kind of service up the flanks like Wiedwald can, and while Wiedwald is, at times, a little unconventional on crosses or from set pieces, he’s shown exactly why the manager trusts him in the side. For me, his best game for Leeds. 8/10

Vurnon Anita: Did nothing wrong, and stayed at home while Ayling and Alioski ran riot down the right hand side. Did a sparkling job at left-back, which isn’t necessarily his natural position. Along with the rest of the defence, was solid tonight. 7/10

Liam Cooper: Had a good solid match at central defence. Along with Jansson, made several quality stops and had a brilliant assist on the Roofe goal, heading it right to the forward. 8/10

Pontus Jansson: Had an early stumble as he left a Forest get a free header on goal, but after that seemed to settle down provided his usual solid defensive effort. At this point, it would be more surprising if he wasn’t his usual brilliant self than if he had an “average” match. 8/10

Luke Ayling: Another fine performance from the right-back. He’s performing at a high level on both the defensive end and in attack. Combines well with Alioski down the right and is starting to show an understanding with the other new players. Took a hard challenge, but got right back up, dusted himself off, and got right back into it. 7/10

Eunan O’Kane: Has stood out this season in not only his ability to pass the ball into tight spaces and drive the ball forward, but his partnership with Phillips is starting to blossom as the two of them drive get the ball out to the wings for the attack while also disrupting the other team’s attack in the midfield. 7/10

Kalvin Phillips: Along with O’Kane, has provided both a solid brick in front of the back four, allowing Saiz to run free with the wings on the attack, and was responsible for a number of ball-winning tackles. It was telling that there was almost as many tweets about Phillips’ tackle that won the ball back that led to Alioski’s wonder strike as there was about the goal itself. 8/10

Gianni Alioski: Man of the Match. In addition to putting Forest’s Traore in his pocket and being an absolute menace down the right hand side, was responsible for much of the attack for Leeds during the match. The well-taken goal was an absolute thing of beauty, leaving the Forest keeper planted on his feet until too late. Scored his first goal in English football, but will likely not be his last. 9/10

Samu Saiz: Another remarkable performance. Took a few shots that on another day might have fallen for him. Was vital in the final third, taking a few chances and winning a few free-kicks for Leeds. Had a pass that picked out Dallas right outside the box that was absolutely proof of the divine. Was overshadowed by Alioski and his goal, but otherwise was one of the better performers in the match. 8/10

Pablo Hernandez: It is telling that Hernandez has been moved out of the number 10 position for the club and onto the wing, allowing for Saiz to move into his natural position. Hernandez can still deliver killer set pieces for the club, but it’s no longer crazy to consider that the club doesn’t need his creativity on the pitch, with the emergence of Saiz and Alioski. 7/10

Kemar Roofe: The Roofe was on fire! Scored a goal in the first half to give Leeds the lead off of a set-piece that Cooper did well to head back in front of goal for Roofe to stick behind the keeper. The two Forest defenders were ball-watching and neither of them bothered to jump or mark Roofe, but he did very well to direct the header to the bottom corner right where the Forest Keeper had no chance to get it. Is making a case for him to take over as the lone striker with Chris Wood leaving. 7/10

SUBSTITUTES

Jay-Roy Grot: Came on for Pablo Hernandez after 70 minutes. Showed what all the fuss was about, looking very good on the ball as well as being a towering presence up front. Got involved a bit in the attack, and with time could see him start to bang in the goals. 6/10

Stuart Dallas: Came on for Roofe in the 75th minute. Did well to keep the pressure on Forest in the final few minutes that directly lead to the Alioski goal. 6/10

Ronaldo Vieira: The best-named footballer in England came on in the 88th minute to replace Kalvin Phillips and see the game out for the final two minutes and stoppage time. Barely had enough time to have any impact on the match at all. N/A

Overall, a brilliant performance in a good win and the fourth straight clean sheet for the club. After years of questionable starts from the club, after five matches the club is looking to control its own destiny as it attempts to top the table and return to the Premier League for the first time in 14 years. So far, the club has been good enough to grab 11 points from the first five matches, good enough for third place going into the international break. What a time to follow Leeds.