Leeds United 2 Crystal Palace 0
Leeds United moved into the top half of the Premier League with relative ease as goals from Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford saw off an underwhelming performance from Crystal Palace. It is easy to forget that sometimes this Leeds side were promoted only last season, as on nights like these, they look like a side who have played in the top flight for quite some time.
They played with all the traits they have become renowned for under Marcelo Bielsa. They pressed with intent, attacked with gusto and, were it not for a touch of imprecision, what turned out to be a straightforward victory could have been something of a procession against a Palace side whose struggles without Wilfried Zaha continue.
Palace have now lost 17 of their last 19 games without the forward but, in truth, even with Zaha they may have struggled to leave West Yorkshire with anything other than defeat given the way Leeds performed.
With no Zaha, Palace gave a debut to Jean-Philippe Mateta, with Patrick van Aanholt playing in advance of Tyrick Mitchell on the left. Within three minutes, though, Leeds picked their opponents’ pocket in that area of the field to take the lead. With the home side pressing from the off, Leeds won the ball back on the edge of the Palace area.
Just a few seconds later, the ball was in the back of Vicente Guaita's net as Jack Harrison fired home, though not before a deflection off Gary Cahill spun the ball out of Guaita's reach. That early setback was a sign of things to come for Palace, who spent almost the entire first half on the back foot as Leeds relentlessly pressed for more goals.
Shortly after Harrison’s opener Gjanni Alioski’s cross was met by Bamford, who forced a smart save from Guaita after beating Cahill to the ball, before the Leeds striker picked Cahill’s pocket on halfway to race through on goal. Fortunately for Cahill, though, Bamford misjudged the shot, skewing over the bar when it was perhaps easier to hit the target, with Cahill trailing in his wake.
By half-time, Leeds might have been disappointed to lead by only one given the dominance they had enjoyed for large periods of the half. Raphinha was next to terrorise Cahill, turning the defender inside out on the edge of the Palace box five minutes before half-time. Leeds could not convert the free-kick, but Cahill was booked for the foul.
Leeds' pressure was relentless and in the minutes before the interval Pascal Struijk spurned two wonderful opportunities to put the home side two goals in front. First, he headed over from close range, before a wonderful ball from Kalvin Phillips found the defender unmarked in the area. Somehow he headed comfortably wide and, incredibly, Palace were still in the game at half-time despite the dominance of the hosts throughout.
Roy Hodgson responded at half-time by introducing Andros Townsend for the subdued Van Aanholt. However, despite Townsend making a slight difference to Palace's forward endeavour, it made little impact on Leeds' pressure, which continued after half-time and eventually yielded the second goal they fully deserved.
Yet again it was Raphinha at the heart of it, as the Brazilian was played in by Mateusz Klich. His shot was saved smartly by Guaita but Bamford was on hand to score the 100th goal of his club career and ensure his side's dominance finally had the lead it merited. No player has more goals from open play in the Premier League this season than the 11 Bamford has scored.
Palace’s best – and arguably only – chance came long after the second goal as Eberechi Eze fired over from close range. But by the end the theme reverted to a familiar one as Leeds pressed for more goals, with Harrison striking the bar in the final minutes. By then, though, his miss mattered little. – Guardian