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.
"Granny Val is a big part of the club, loads of people have grown to love her without knowing her. That was for Kalvin and his family."— Football Daily (@footballdaily) February 23, 2021
Patrick Bamford speaking about the tribute Leeds United paid Kalvin's grandmother 'Granny Val' at full-time pic.twitter.com/nJXYnvgGmp
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
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.
Tony Dorigo on Diego Llorente:— leedsunited_news (@leeds_utd_news) February 23, 2021
"Great for Llorente, finally gets 90 minutes and we saw what we're going to get in the coming weeks as well. A class player, who is just getting used to his teammates but looks a great addition for us."@tonydorigo #lufc #mot #alaw ⚪️
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
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.
Helder Costa appreciation post.— LUFC Worldwide ⚪️ (@LUFC_WorldWide) February 23, 2021
Has a lot of doubters but came on today and showed what he can do. Created chances, ran at players but most importantly tracked back like a maniac. Worked his socks off. Well in Helder. pic.twitter.com/33LHdAm9rY
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
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.
✅29/02/2020- Illan Meslier made his English league debut in a 4-0 win against Hull City in the Championship— Lufcyouth (@leedsutdacademy) February 23, 2021
✅23/02/2021- Illan Meslier sets a new Premier League record of eight clean sheets in a single season before his 21st birthday!
What A Year #LUFC pic.twitter.com/Q2m2txDWJY
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
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.
Most PL goals scored from outside the box this season— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 23, 2021
10 – Leeds (Raphinha 3)
9 – Leicester
7 – Man City
7 – Man Utd
7 – Tottenham pic.twitter.com/6xJuKhAdux
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
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.
Most PL goal involvements this season by English players:— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 23, 2021
24 – Harry Kane (13 goals/11 assists)
18 – PATRICK BAMFORD (13/5)
17 – Jamie Vardy (12/5)
16 – Jack Grealish (6/10) pic.twitter.com/xMb55vERjw
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.
Who was your man of the match vs Southampton?
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