Leeds United’s under-23s absolutely obliterated Fulham at Thorp Arch to extend their lead at the top of The Premier League 2 Division 2 table.
The Whites once again sent out first-teamers Helder Costa, Pablo Hernandez, Tyler Roberts and Ian Poveda alongside Leif Davis. Sam Greenwood kept his place in the centre of midfield, a position which he has adapted well to in recent weeks, while Charlie Cresswell adorned the captain's armband once again.
Davis, Poveda, Roberts, Hernandez and Costa feature for the U23s. Watch the game live on Twitter from 12 pic.twitter.com/tpJ2c4cKBO— Leeds United (@LUFC) December 21, 2020
Leeds started the game well with both teams setting a high tempo, and before long the home side took the lead. Tyler Roberts got his head on the end of Helder Costa’s corner kick on the right-hand side, firing in toward the top left corner from the near post.
The game remained at a lighting pace with Leeds getting the better of their opponents, with both teams pressing high and running as if their lives depended on it. Helder Costa came so close to grabbing a goal for himself after being found in the penalty area by Pablo Hernandez, but his right-footed shot from skewed wide.
Moments later The Whites came close again as Sam Greenwood twisted and turned into some space on the edge of the box before lashing a shot across the keeper’s left who turned it away. Costa had another one fall to him soon after, latching onto a brilliant pass from Poveda across the box with the keeper getting the better of the shot from close range.
Fulham weren’t without their danger though, giving the defence plenty of issues, but the visitors just couldn’t deal with Leeds and their constant pressure on the front foot. A corner was well won after some brilliant build-up play involving Greenwood, Poveda and Costa who squared the ball from the left to Hernandez. The Spaniard turned well under pressure to create an opening to bend one toward the bottom right corner, with the keeper making another good save.
He couldn’t keep out the next effort, however, as Helder Costa’s resulting corner found captain Charlie Cresswell who flew above all else and battered a bullet header into the back of the net to double the Leeds lead.
The third arrived just minutes later as Poveda slipped Hernandez through on the right channel of the box. He squared it for Greenwood with the ball intercepted by a sliding McEvoy for Fulham who put the ball in his own net.
And they kept pushing as expected, coming agonisingly close to a fourth as the clock ticked toward 45 minutes. Drameh found Poveda on the right side of the box, firing across goal with his shot being parried back into the danger area, with Roberts just about managing to get on the end of it but it was well blocked on the line.
The Whites started the second-half like they finished the first, with Drameh running onto a nice ball into the right side of the box, squaring it into Hernadez who opened his body up and had his shot deflected wide for a corner kick. It was swung in nicely by Hernandez as it was Cresswell flicked it on toward the back post where Costa was waiting, but his shot wasn’t powerful enough to evade the blocking defenders.
Niall Huggins was brought on in place of Leif Davis at half-time as was instantly involved in the action. He had a couple of moments in the opening six or seven minutes where he came close to scoring with the first curled effort from 25 yards flying wide before a nice one-two with Hernandez found him on the left side of the box where he should’ve scored but drilled it just wide.
But the fourth would soon arrive as Charlie Cresswell pushed high up the pitch to win the ball and send Helder Costa on his way. His cutback toward Hernandez was poor but Poveda was most switched on to pick up the pieces and send Hernandez through on the turn. In the end, it was an easy finish for the 35-year-old whose vast experienced showed itself to be a crucial factor in the performance.
Joe Gelhardt came onto the pitch on the hour mark and won a penalty kick two minutes later as he played a one-two with fellow substitute Kamwa into the box before dancing his way between four defenders before being fouled in the six-yard box. Gelhardt’s spot-kick was saved by the keeper onto the post, but he couldn't keep Kamwa out on the rebound who lifted the ball across Wickens between the sticks and into the net.
But the clean sheet could not be maintained this time having been caught on the break, but despite the youngsters recovering in numbers, nobody could keep Carvahlo’s left-footed strike from flying into the top left corner from the edge of the box.
The reaction to the goal was key though. Despite being 5-1 up and top of the league the players could not be more furious with themselves, with Olly Casey letting out a battle cry for his team to switch on and go again.
Joe Gelhardt came inches away from scoring with ten minutes left after being put through on the left of the box by a lovely reverse pass from Huggins, but his left-footed shot went just wide of the post. But he did get his goal just moments later as Kamwa found Gelhardt brilliantly with a backheel before Gelhardt curled the ball with his left into the right-hand corner, fooling the goalkeeper and making it 6-1.
The youth Whites weren’t done there though, with Drameh bursting forward on the counter in the 93rd minute before sending Poveda through on the right who cut the ball across to the back post for Costa to put it away and make it a battering.
After a tough night against Manchester United, this game was a great example of how good Leeds can be when it works and how bright the future is for the Leeds United academy. As out Twitter (@ThruItAllLUFC) previously suggested: what a brilliant time and way to put yourself in the shop window for the first team, everyone was on their game.
Creative, versatile, dominant, powerful, beautiful. This is the aim for every game, and this was by some distance the best performance of the season for the Leeds u23s, and the crazy part is that there is still room for improvement.
That caps off a brilliant year for the academy, with promotion to The Premier League 2 where they now sit top of the PL2 Division 2 table.