Leeds produced a spectacular second-half display to heap further misery on Southampton, who are now winless in eight league matches.
Three second-half goals from Patrick Bamford, Stuart Dallas and Raphinha meant that Leeds earned their 200th Premier League victory, a milestone deservedly acquired today given their classy performance. Bamford opened the scoring just minutes after the start of the second half with a cool finish past McCarthy. The Whites added salt to the wounds in the final 15 minutes, with Dallas’ thumping finish and Raphinha’s smooth free-kick leading Southampton to their 11th loss of the season.
Southampton, who started with top scorer Danny Ings and in-form loanee Takumi Minamino on the bench, were unable to put any real pressure on the Leeds defence. Their best chances came in the first half, with a Che Adams goal disallowed and a penalty overturned by VAR. After their promising 1-1 draw with Chelsea on the weekend, the Saints seemed merely a shadow of themselves, allowing Leeds to control the game.
It was the Saints who in fact started the game as the brighter side with Jan Vestergaard and Nathan Tella having early chances to break the deadlock. As the first half progressed, however, Leeds began to grow in influence, going close through Liam Cooper whose goalward flick narrowly missed the target following a well worked free-kick routine by Rapinha and Llorente. Controversy took over the game just minutes later when Tella was awarded a penalty after being seemingly tripped by defender Diego Llorente, who earned his third appearance for Leeds. Referee Andre Marriner had to check the VAR monitor to make sure the right decision was made and it was, as the penalty was overturned after the footage showed that the Saints midfielder was searching for contact.
Towards the end of the first half, Leeds threatened the Saints defence again, this time through Raphinha. After a quick counter-attack, the Brazilian winger found himself one-on-one with McCarthy before a heroic sliding challenge was made by Oriol Romeu to deny Raphinha any opportunity of hitting the back of the net. Saints did manage to find themselves 1-0 ahead before the whistle, as striker Adams converted from Ward-Prowse’s free kick. Again, Andre Marriner’s decision-making was pivotal as he rightfully denied the goal from standing as the whistle was not blown to signal for the free-kick to be taken.
After the fascinating latter stages of the first half, the early minutes of the second half provided high-octane action as both sides produced strong moments showcasing their attacking abilities. Leeds managed to find plenty of space in the midfield and attacking third. Within two minutes of the start of the second half, Bamford drove Leeds ahead through a clean left-footed finish into the bottom right-hand corner. Bielsa’s side exploited the wide-open space in the midfield as Roberts produced a fine pass to Bamford, whose positioning before the goal was characteristic of the type of football advocated by the Argentine manager. Bamford, now with 13 league goals, continues to prove his doubters wrong; he is pushing for a spot in the England team for Euro 2021, and it is difficult to deny that he should be in the conversation given his attacking prowess.
Saints went close to equalising minutes after Bamford’s goal as Armstrong, returning to the squad, forced a sensational save from Meslier at his near post. From then on, it was Leeds and only Leeds who seemed like they were taking the three points. Welsh forward Roberts struck just wide of the Saints post after a brilliant run by Raphinha, who caused nightmares for Vestergaard on the left-hand side. Southampton continued to defend dangerously as Bamford and Roberts forced a double save from McCarthy after excellent footwork from Dallas to glide past a number of Saints defenders.
By the hour mark, it was clear that Hasenhuttl had to make a change to try and spark a comeback of some sorts, Ings and Minamino were both brought on. Their influence on the game was limited, as they failed to cause any real problems for the Leeds defence. Hasenhuttl’s worries increased as Romeu limped off the pitch due to an injury.
Raphinha stole the show in the second half. The £17m Brazilian proved to be bargain as he created a number of chances down the left hand side. Dallas’ strike to make it 2-0 following a simple cross-the-box pass from Helder Costa was brilliant play in itself, yet what made the goal so special was Raphinha‘s. run across goal to draw Vestergaard away and create the space for Dallas to have his effort. His performance throughout the game meant that his goal to make it 3-0 was nothing more than deserved, netting through an expert free kick from 20 yards. A Bielsa tactical masterclass for Leeds, and it was evident through Raphinha’s game as he sprinted up and down the pitch from start to finish. Leeds now have recorded back-to-back home clean sheets in the league for the first time since 2003.
The demolition leaves Southampton at 14th place, 8 points above the relegation zone. While, Leeds leapfrog Arsenal into the top half. Southampton, who now have conceded 24 goals in their nine league fixtures this year, face three consecutive away fixtures. Their next game comes on Monday against an Everton side who will be full of confidence after their shock 2-0 win away at Anfield.
Leeds boss Bielsa remained reserved in his post-match interviews despite his side’s success:
‘The difference between the two teams was not as big as the scoreline. The game was very disputed, even if our offensive game was better than the opponents’.
Southampton manager Hasenhuttl reiterated problems regarding his team’s lack of goals:
‘It’s the same old story, especially in the second half of the season, we have chances, we don’t score, and have a few moments where I think the goal was played one second too early’.
FT: Leeds 3-0 SOUTHAMPTON (Bamford 47’, Dallas 78’, Raphinha 84’)
Leeds: Meslier, Llorente, Cooper, Struijk, Dallas, Roberts (Hernandez 75’), Klich (Alioski 59’), Ayling, Harrison (Helder Costa 45’), Bamford, Raphinha (booked). Unused Subs: Casilla, Gelhardt, Cresswell, Jenkins, Casey, Huggins.
Southampton: McCarthy, Bednarek, Vestergaard (booked), Salisu, Bertrand, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu (Djenepo 70’ (booked)), Tella (Minamino 58’), Adams, Redmond (Ings 58’). Unused Subs: Stephens, Ramsay, N’Lundulu, Forster, Jankewitz, Chauke.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Raphinha (Leeds)
Referee: Andre Marriner.