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For Granny Val: win dedicated to lifelong Leeds fan as Llorente, Roberts and Costa play starring roles

It was a performance she would have been proud of, during which Diego Llorente took his long-awaited chance with both hands, while Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa silenced their critics.

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Leeds United paid tribute to Kalvin Phillips’ grandmother, who recently passed away, after the win over Southampton.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Leeds United have a lot to thank Val Crosby for, whose influence on Kalvin Phillips helped make him the player he is today. At Elland Road last night, the club did their best to repay the midfielder’s grandmother, who passed away last week.

After battling a worsening pitch in the first half, a switch was flicked in the second. Passes began to find their targets, and Marcelo Bielsa’s side was met with little resistance during their 3-0 win which saw them break back into the top half of the Premier League.

After Stuart Dallas lifted a shirt with ‘Granny Val’ emblazoned on the back to celebrate his goal, the whole squad dedicated the victory to the lifelong Whites supporter after the final whistle. Indeed, it was a performance she would have been proud of.

Amid the emotional tributes for the ‘Take Us Home’ documentary star, here is what we learned as Leeds defeated Southampton 3-0.

Llorente makes the most of his overdue opportunity to shine

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Diego Llorente, signed from Real Sociedad for £18 million this summer, completed 90 minutes for the first time this season.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It is difficult to remember a significant Leeds signing who has suffered as many injury setbacks in their first few months at Elland Road as Diego Llorente. But playing for the first time since coming off after 10 minutes at Newcastle, supporters finally got a real glimpse of the £18 million signing in what was his home debut.

The Spain international will certainly have better games in a white shirt, but despite looking rusty he impressed supporters with his range of passing and his willingness to progress with the ball at his feet, harking back to memories of Ben White last season.

No Leeds player completed more than his 37 passes, while his tally of four interceptions was the highest managed by anyone on the pitch. Having also been denied at close range by Alex McCarthy at the other end of the pitch, the 27-year-old enjoyed a productive 90 minutes largely undisturbed by injury, even if he looked exhausted at times.

Should the former Real Sociedad defender avoid another setback, his future certainly looks bright. Leeds have missed the presence of a seasoned ball-playing defender at the back, and his performance was as important as ever with Phillips still on the sidelines.

Roberts and Costa go from zero to hero

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa both registered assists, and have significantly improved their performances in recent weeks.
Photo by Mike Egerton - Pool/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, vocal Leeds fans were calling for the heads of Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa, who had developed habits of offering little off the bench. Regardless of the criticism, Bielsa continued to utilise the pair, who have steadily improved in recent matches. After each of them registered an assist last night, their comeback arc feels almost complete.

Roberts could still use some shooting practice, but what he lacked in finishing he made up for in his work rate off the ball, as well as his exquisite assist for Patrick Bamford’s opener. Having spotted the striker’s well plotted run, the 22-year-old sliced the Southampton defenders out of the equation with a perfectly weighted ball.

Meanwhile, Costa has been taking advantage of a run of poor form from Jack Harrison, and replaced the Manchester City loanee again during the interval last night. The contrast in his performances over the last couple of months and last night is striking; the Portuguese winger looked rejuvenated, making numerous sprints and muscling opponents off the ball.

The drive in the 27-year-old’s game was refreshing, and his assist for Dallas’ goal was well deserved. Together, the pair won nine ground duels and drew eight fouls, and their recent displays may well have secured their futures at Elland Road.

Meslier breaks clean sheet record

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Illan Meslier broke a Premier League clean sheet record set by Joe Hart over 12 years ago.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

In the 2007/08 Premier League campaign, a young Joe Hart broke into the Manchester City first team and kept seven clean sheets before his 21st birthday, a top flight record that stood until last night.

Illan Meslier has cemented himself as first choice goalkeeper at Leeds, and despite falling victim to some shaky moments, the 20-year-old is proving himself worthy of Premier League football after keeping his eighth clean sheet of the season.

The Frenchman was made to work for it, making five saves to deny a Saints side who unleashed the most shots on goal throughout the 90 minutes. He also showed good conviction, finding success in both of his runs out.

Having also performed well against Wolves, it is fair to say that Meslier has well and truly bounced back from his unfortunate moments in the Arsenal defeat, showcasing his admirable ability to overcome every challenge he is faced with. Given that he is the youngest first team keeper in the division, it might be a while before that record is broken again.

Raphinha steals the headlines

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Raphinha dedicated his free kick goal to Ronaldinho’s mother, who died recently from Covid-19.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Only Raphinha could make 17 million look like such a miniscule number. Despite being one of Leeds’ most expensive players ever, it is obvious to everyone now that Victor Orta and company have produced one of the great Premier League bargains.

No less than four key passes were completed by the Brazilian, twice as many as anyone else on the pitch. He dazzled once more with his dribbling ability, and having been too slow on the trigger in the first half, he scored the goal he deserved in magnificent style - a free kick from 25 yards out.

Jan Bednarek will have felt a great sense of relief at the final whistle; even when he is not playing on his favoured right side, the 24-year-old is still an absolute menace to play against, especially if you are a centre-back playing out of position.

With 10 direct goal involvements to his name so far this season, Raphinha has cemented his position as signing of the summer - indeed, only the arrival of Pablo Hernandez rivals the significance of the Rennes winger’s transfer last year in recent times. One or two more signings on his level and Leeds can already begin to focus on their European ambitions.

Bamford keeping pace with top scorers

Leeds United v Southampton - Premier League
Only Bruno Fernandes and Mohamed Salah have scored more goals than Patrick Bamford in the Premier League this season.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Many Premier League fans, having spent last season watching Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki go from hot to cold quicker than Texas last week, may have anticipated Bamford sinking into obscurity after his electric start to the Premier League season.

But even as Leeds struggle to find consistency, the England international hopeful is refusing to slow down, and his goal today was another brilliant example of his movement off the ball as well as his clinical finishing.

On the back of frustrating offside calls at Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bamford held back from making his run before Roberts played him through with an excellent pass. Yet the 27-year-old had still positioned himself perfectly between the defenders to give himself space to shoot, despite the pre-meditated hesitation.

Considering the sheer number of English strikers lining up for a potential England call-up this season, it would be tricky for Gareth Southgate to find space in his squad for Bamford, but his intelligence off the ball alongside his goalscoring ability surely makes him one of the prime candidates outside the international regulars.


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