I was (perhaps rightly) criticised for believing that a single point against Preston would be a good result. I’ve seen them play, they’ve got a lovely system that far belies their lowly league position. But having already lost to Preston this season in the Carabao Cup (albeit without our first team), it’s not sensible to underestimate them. I was justifiably cautious ahead of the game, especially after a real challenge at Millwall it seemed likely that another tight game was on the cards.
Alas, Leeds are continuing to grow and the obvious weaknesses introduced through first team players being injured have started to fade slightly. The absence of Bamford and Roofe was a bitter annoyance as Tyler Roberts missed easy chances against Millwall, yet against Preston he grew into a formidable attacking option. His first goal was similar to Chris Wood’s against Birmingham – a lofted ball over the defence that he ran onto, before executing a deft chip over the onrushing keeper. He had a safer option to his left, but went for the tidy finish and nailed it. For a player perhaps lacking confidence and on the back of a long layoff, it was a beautiful moment.
Not long afterwards a perfect Bielsa-ball goal occurred, again, scored by Roberts. Jansson pressed a challenge over the half-way line, the tackle sending the ball rolling towards Jack Harrison. The young winger ran infield before spreading the ball square to Saiz (who had been running the show from an attacking sense). Saiz shaped his body to make the defence think he was shooting, before turning inside and placing a perfect through-ball to Klich. The Pole chipped a precision cross onto a relatively unmarked Roberts’ head, who cushioned the header back across goal beyond the reach of Bunn. Lovely finishes and sublime demonstrations of how our tactical system works, but also how a player who some fans were starting to worry about can come good in situations such as these.
The comfortable 3-0 scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story though. BPF made a superb save in the early moments of the game at 0-0, pushing a shot away from the top right corner that it looked destined to bend into. Klich had two one-on-one situations that you’d have happily bet on him scoring. Harrison, too, was played in by Saiz who placed a measured shot against the post with only the keeper to beat (and Roberts couldn’t meet the rebound). Alioski had also put the ball in the back of the net, though was flagged offside (as he does).
Preston could have scored once. Leeds could have had 8.
Pontus Jansson was peak Pontus Jansson once again – he was dominant in every way you’d want a centre-back to be. He exterminated every threat that Preston tried to exert and kept things tidy. Leeds are continuing to grow under Bielsa – Tyler Roberts found his feet, Jack Harrison had his best game for the club, Saiz looked more dangerous, Phillips looks more and more like a class player as the weeks go by. It’s staggering what is currently being achieved with broadly the same squad as last season. Though we were also top after 8 games last season too, so we should perhaps remain cautious.
I’m loving it, though.