Match Report: Hull City 0-4 Leeds United - ruthless Whites secure resounding win
Saturday, 29th Feb 2020 19:52 by Lucas Monk
Despite the absence of first-choice goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, Leeds United put an injury-ravaged and out of sorts Hull City to the sword at the KCOM Stadium to secure a fourth victory in succession and move to within a point of league leaders West Bromwich Albion.
United got off to the most auspicious start possible when Luke Ayling’s deflected shot bobbled into the net with five minutes played, before Pablo Hernandez doubled their advantage shortly after the half-time interval. Tyler Roberts then came off the bench and scored a late brace to complete the rout.
Owing to the absence of Casilla, who found himself banned for eight matches after purportedly making racist remarks to an opposition player back in September, Marcelo Bielsa handed a first league start to Ilian Meslier, who first made an impression in a Leeds shirt in January’s FA Cup tie with Arsenal. He also recalled the instrumental Kalvin Phillips to the starting lineup; Phillips had missed Wednesday’s victory away to Middlesbrough with a calf strain.
Deprived of no fewer than 10 senior players due to an agglomeration of injuries and suspensions, Hull manager Grant McCann fielded a somewhat callow side that included former United players Malik Wilks and Matthew Pennington. Leeds have often attracted scorn for a perceived profligacy on their part throughout the season, but many observers fancied them to record a hefty victory, not least on account of City’s recent woes and United’s domination of recent matches.
That they did, but it was United’s performance in the second half that truly caught the eye. When Ayling received possession from Hernandez midway inside the opposing half and his shot ricocheted off a Hull defender and into the net, the home faithful must have feared the worst.
But after Hernandez crashed a searing shot against the aluminium, their side responded with courage and were able to enjoy a progressive spell of possession and stem the tide. The game had entered a somewhat insipid phase, and the eyes of everybody present were fixated upon the reams of Leeds supporters streaming out of the home terraces and into the away stand. A brief scuffle ensued.
The visitors negotiated the rest of the half without finding themselves under any sort of concerted pressure, but Hull had offered a faint threat on the periphery and it was patently clear that United had to raise their game for the second period.
Out of the traps they bounded. Two minutes after the interval, Leeds broke with considerable alacrity down the left. In went the cross, to the feet of Helder Costa. He found Hernandez, who then found the bottom corner with a cool finish. There was a maelstrom of exultation and excitement behind the goal. It produced a curious aspect, as though there were some palpable, growing belief among that army of more than 3,000 supporters that this, at last, may be the year.
United powered on, the incessant wall of noise proving to be wind in their sails. A move of real elegance and elan resulted in Costa working a pocket of space for a shot and eliciting a smart save from George Long in the City goal on 53 minutes. Three minutes thereafter, Mateusz Klich did likewise. A minute after that, Jack Harrison sent a screaming shot of his own against the bar. It was brutal and ruthless stuff.
In an attempt to salvage something from this situation, McCann threw on rangy striker Norbert Balogh in place of Josh Magennis. The Hungarian almost made an instant impact when, on 62 minutes, he outmuscled his marker and cracked a shot against the upright from close range.
But there was to be no revival for the Tigers. A barrage of hail descended, emblematic of the Leeds bombardment. The irrepressible Harrison led four defenders a merry dance and drew another good save from the beleaguered Long. Costa then hammered a volley toward goal, and again Long was there to spare Hull further embarrassment.
United would have their third goal soon enough. Harrison combined well with Stuart Dallas and another fine, flowing move culminated in Roberts rifling the ball low into the net for his second goal of the season.
And they were not yet finished. Klich curled a laser-guided cross to the far post, and Roberts netted his third of the season and second of the match in a fashion that would have delighted the heart of Lee Chapman. It was a booming header, high into the net, the goalkeeper beaten all ends up.
All this was precisely what a swashbuckling second half performance merited. It was simply celestially good. Football from another realm. The slick, swift exchanges of passes. The devastating, dynamic movement off the ball. The razor-sharp finishing. It was all clear to see. A radiant excellence beaconed from everything Leeds did in the second period.
This triumph, admittedly one over weak opposition, gives Marcelo Bielsa’s side a fourth win - and clean sheet - in succession. Moreover, it has propelled them to within a point of league leaders West Bromwich Albion, following their defeat to Wigan at the Hawthorns. The stage is set for next Saturday’s crucial local derby against Huddersfield Town at Elland Road. The fight goes on. 10 matches left and 30 points on offer. It is now or never.
Hull City (4-2-3-1): Long; McKenzie, Pennington, McLoughlin, Elder; Stewart, Lopes; Wilks, Samuelsen, Honeyman; Magennis.
Unused subs: Ingram, Irvine, Tafazolli, Kingsley.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, White, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Hernandez, Klich, Harrison; Bamford.
Unused subs: Caprile, Berardi, Douglas, Stevens.
Match Statistics (Hull / Leeds):
Possession: 33% / 67%
Shots: 8 / 17
On target: 2 / 8
Corners: 5 / 11
Fouls: 13 / 13
Referee: Keith Stroud
Booked: McLoughlin, Magennis (Hull), Bamford (Leeds)
Man of the match: Matuesz Klich (Leeds)
Photo: Action Images
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