Leeds produce impressive second-half performance to cruise to victory over struggling Southampton as goals from Bamford, Raphinha and Stuart Dallas hands Leeds a routine win at Elland Road
Marcelo Bielsa’s voice boomed around the stadium as Leeds United moved closer to another win. He was giving instructions, but his tone made them sound like commands. ‘Again, Raphinha!’ Bielsa bellowed. ‘Again! Again!’
He was not alone in wanting to see his fleet-footed winger get the ball. Raphinha had one of those matches where almost everything came off. His trickery and searing pace left Southampton right back Jan Bednarek seeing stars and propelled Leeds into the top 10 in the Premier League
This was the club’s 200th Premier League victory, and it should be remembered for how the Brazilian ran amok.
Leeds sped away from Southampton with three unanswered second-half goals and Raphinha was central to it all. He scored one, could have had another and lit up a miserable night.
Be in no doubt that scouts will be watching Raphinha’s every move — while kicking themselves for not spotting him at Rennes last season — but the 24-year-old is thriving in Yorkshire. Bielsa’s appraisal of his efforts was suitably glowing.
‘He is very ambitious and competitive,’ said the Leeds boss. ‘He has a mixture which is not very common in that he works so hard but is also so creative.
‘I sincerely think that I can add very little to his game. The best thing with players like him is to let them be themselves.’
It was thrilling to watch. You know when you head to Elland Road that things will never be boring, and here was another contest that was full of life, drama and talking points — as two skilful teams made light work of a cabbage-patch pitch. Southampton certainly played their part.
Leeds had the best chances before the break. Tyler Roberts missed a glorious opportunity following superb work by Raphinha in the 24th minute, then the Brazilian was denied by Oriol Romeu’s outstanding tackle in the 39th.
Sandwiched in the middle was Southampton’s big moment, when Nathan Tella went to ground as he jostled with Diego Llorente. Referee Andre Marriner awarded a penalty, but after advice from VAR Kevin Friend the decision was rightly overturned.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl had made changes to his starting line-up — resting Danny Ings and Takumi Minamino following their exertions against Chelsea — and, eventually, Saints ran out of steam. They are now winless in eight league games.
‘We are not playing like a winning team,’ Hasenhuttl grumbled. ‘Leeds deserved this win.’
And how. The dynamic changed quickly after the interval when Patrick Bamford opened the scoring, his super left-footed finish applying the gloss to a perfect ball from Roberts. Leeds were liberated, and Raphinha took over.
Stuart Dallas doubled the lead in the 78th minute when he ran 40 yards to receive a pass back from substitute Helder Costa and beat Alex McCarthy with a drive from the edge of the area.
Dallas celebrated by hoisting a shirt dedicated to ‘Granny Val’, Kalvin Phillips’ grandmother who died last week. Raphinha then had a chance to make a tribute of his own, as he provided the final flourish with a 20-yard free-kick.
He lifted his shirt to reveal a message for the family of Ronaldinho, whose mother also died last week. Raphinha wanted to do something to show support for his idol.