This match was huge for both Leeds United, who were tied for first-place, and West Bromwich Albion, who were just one point out of a playoff spot. For their starting eleven, Leeds ran out the usual suspects:
Because of injuries to both Tom Pearce and Luke Ayling, U23 defender Leif Davis made the bench.
Leeds started off the match looking overwhelmed by the constant pressure coming from West Brom. Tosin Adarabioyo and Jay Rodriguez both had great looks around the 13th minute, and Bailey Peacock-Farrell did well to keep the score level.
In the 22nd minute, after a long spell of possession by the Whites, Kalvin Phillips gave the ball away in a terrible position. This led to a FIFA-like 2v2 fast break that ended with Hal Robson-Kanu just missing his shot into the side netting of the Leeds goal. Soon after in the 26th minute, Pablo Hernandez put a one-time shot over the goal after wonderful build-up play by Leeds.
West Bromwich certainly had the more dangerous chances in the first half, however, as the match went on, Leeds was able to retain possession more and more, and began to smother West Brom’s offense. It became apparent that the West Midlands club was content to sit back and allow Leeds to dominate possession. They kept their defensive shape tight and hit the Whites with several potent counter-attacks. Leeds’ best chance in the first half came with just seven minutes remaining, when Ezgjan Alioski played a ball back into the box that found Mateusz Klich, who was unable to challenge keeper Sam Johnstone from six yards out. The first half ended 0-0, and the Whites were playing well.
Five minutes into the second half, disaster struck. Kemar Roofe, with his back the goal, was taken down in the box, though it was too light for a penalty to be called. Once again, West Brom struck back with a nasty counter-attack, but this time, Robson-Kanu was able to put the ball into the lower right corner of the net. Pontus Jansson was in a decent position, but he allowed the forward to get off the shot. The Swedish defenseman looked seriously injured after a tackle just minutes later, but he was able to rejoin the match.
Albion had their own claim for a penalty in the 64th minute, but it was a clear flop by Robson-Kanu. Soon after, West Brom scored their second goal of the night when Matt Phillips took down Klich at midfield and easily scored from 20 yards out. Peacock-Farrell managed to get a hand on the shot, but was not able to keep it out. It could have been a foul on Phillips, who appeared to pull down Klich from behind, but the referee let play continue.
West Brom scored two more goals in the last 10 minutes of the match to seal the deal. The third was after another giveaway at midfield and the fourth was the result of yet another successful counter-attack.
West Brom certainly deserve credit, as they executed their game plan to perfection. However, Leeds’ midfielders gave away possession far too often in the center of the pitch, and they often did not drop in to help the defense enough. The best indicator of the power of West Brom’s counter-attack is this possession statistic. Leeds out-possessed Albion 71.6% to 28.4% and yet only had 3 shots on target.
Hopefully, they can learn from this performance and for the upcoming match against Bristol City.