Leeds United scored a goal in each half to beat rivals Sheffield United and move into the first half of the Premier League.
Leeds took the lead at Elland Road in bright sunshine when Rafinha beat Jack Harrison for his seventh goal of the season.
The home side had to play down a missed chance in the first half when Ben Osborne pushed the ball off the line after Oli McBurnie’s shot had deflected into his path.
But Leeds retook the lead four minutes into the second half: Phil Jagielka rebounded Harrison’s low cross into his own goal and Rafinha was on the lookout.
Substitutes Rian Brewster and Oliver Burke almost equalised in the closing stages for the visitors, who are now 14 points behind the top of the league table with eight games to go.
But Leeds were a worthy winner on a day when fans remembered Chris Loftus and Kevin Spieth, who were killed in Turkey before the UEFA Cup match against Galatasaray in April 2000, and the club’s record keeper and former captain Peter Lorimer, who died last month.
The only change from Leeds’ squad that won at Fulham before the international break was the return of current captain Liam Cooper in defence, but Rafinha and his fellow midfielders Tyler Roberts and Stuart Dallas shone to help Leeds overtake Aston Villa to finish 10th.
Leeds rate increase for upper half
Sheffield United interim manager Paul Heckingbottom returned to Elland Road for the first time at the end of the 2017-18 season after four eventful months at the helm of Leeds and found the club renewed under his successor.
The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa in June 2018 was a statement of intent and marked the end of a revolving managerial door at Leeds, where they struggled to return to the Premier League.
The Argentine changed the playing style of the team and brought them back to the promised land for the second time. They are now aiming for a top ten finish in the 2001-02 Premier League and continue to play the free, intense football that Bielsa demands.
His side went on the attack early against the visitors and won a free kick with 10 seconds left, which Rafinha headed in. Calvin Phillips caught John Lundstrom testing Aaron Ramsdale, who also saved a Dallas shot from outside the box.
Dallas picked up a ball from Enda Stevens deep in Sheffield United’s penalty area, Roberts found Rafinha and the Brazilian winger slid the ball past George Baldock before putting Harrison on target.
After another good action Luke Ayling’s shot was blocked and Harrison shot wide of Roberts’ penalty area, before Roberts himself shot wide.
Although their Yorkshire opponents equalised on the stroke of half-time, Leeds regained the lead shortly after the break. Roberts scored a delightful goal for Harrison (left) and Manchester City winger Jagielka forced the veteran to score after a pass against his own goal.
After a brief moment, Dallas crossed into the top corner, but his shot landed only on the crossbar and the post. The Northern Ireland midfielder also had a shot on goal as Leeds missed several chances to dash Sheffield United’s hopes of an equaliser.
Blades almost scored the decisive point.
Osborn scored his first Premier League goal (29th appearance) and his first league goal since January 2019 – also against Leeds United (for Nottingham Forest).
When Heckingbottom took over last month following the departure of Chris Wilder, he was not expected to keep Sheffield United at the bottom of the league table.
The Blades were backed before kick-off, however, when second-placed West Brom surprisingly secured their survival by winning over Chelsea on the afternoon.
It would be quite an achievement if Sheffield United survived, and they had almost stolen a point from a game that Leeds seemed in control of.
They equalised with their only shot on target when captain David McGoldrick passed a pass from John Fleck to his partner McBurney. His shot on goal was deflected off Osborne and although his effort was blocked by Eiling, the Leeds defender was well behind the goalkeeper.
There was some confusion in the first half when Baldock was treated for a blow to the head, but he played 11 minutes before being replaced by Ethan Ampadu. However, the visitors immediately brought in a concussion at the position of Jayden Bogle in the second half.
Bogle failed to beat Leeds with a shot blocked after Fleck was found. And Brewster’s powerful volley from outside the box went wide before Burke’s low shot was deflected by Leeds keeper Illan Meslier after the break.
We felt like we were hanging – what they said.
Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa: We think we dominated most of the game. We had chances to score more goals and there were a lot of dangerous actions that didn’t lead to shots, which would have increased the number of chances we had.
But because we didn’t create more than a goal difference and because we didn’t convert any of those chances, we felt like we were treading water at the end.
Sheffield United interim coach Paul Heckingbottom has revealed… The effort and the struggle were there. There were too many moments where we lacked quality. We gave Leeds the best chances on the counter-attack – very disappointing. We came back into the game in good positions and won the consoles, but after that the quality was not there.
In the first half, we continued to conquer the ball, but again we didn’t get free and took too many shots from distance. In the second half it was a similar story, but we opened the score again when we didn’t fully commit to the counter. We couldn’t put any pressure on them.
Another own goal for veteran Jagielka –Statistics
- Leeds made it two wins against Sheffield United for the first time since 1991-92 and won the league title.
- For the fifth time this season, Leeds have registered at least 20 shots in a Premier League match (23 in total). Only Manchester City has achieved this figure more often (6).
- Rafinha’s assist on Jack Harrison’s first goal was his sixth in the Premier League this season – no Leeds player has scored more this year.
- Sheffield United had the 24th against. One losing season in just 30 games – more losses in league history only in 1975-76 (26/42) and 2010-11 (26/46).
- It was only Sheffield United’s seventh Premier League goal of the season and their first in five away games (following a 2-1 win over Manchester United in January).
- Only Richard Dunne (10) has scored more Premier League goals on his own than Phil Jagielka (7). Jagielka is the second fielder to score a goal in this competition, following Stuart Pearce against Manchester United in January 2001 (38:229 minutes).
What’s the next step?
Leeds host Premier League leader Manchester City next Saturday (12.30pm BST) and Arsenal host Sheffield United on Sunday (7pm).
- 14 Llorente
- 15DallasReplacement for Kochat 90+3 minutes
- 11Roberts Replaced by Lichat 81’minute
- 9BamfordReplaced by Rodrigat 65’minsBooking up to 85 mins
- 13 Casilla
- 17Heller Costa
- 19 Hernandez
- 2BaldocSubstituted for Ampaduin 45’minutes
- 20BogleReplaced for Brewster after 73’minutes
- 7LundstramBay in 4 minutes
- 16NorwoodReplaced by Burke in the 65th minute.
- 17McGoldrickLit on 43Minutes
- 9McBurnieReplaced by Eganat 77’minutes
- 18 Foderingham
- Endgame: Leeds United 2, Sheffield United 1.
- End of the second half: Leeds United 2, Sheffield United 1.
- Offside, Sheffield United. Enda Stevens tries a through ball, but Ben Osborne is caught offside.
- Rescue attempt. Rodrigo (Leeds United) left footed shot from the centre of the box goes wide. Backed by Rafinha.
- Replacement: Leeds United. Robin Koch replaces Stuart Dallas.
- Corner, Leeds United. Directed by Phil Jagielka.
- The attempt failed. Jack Harrison (Leeds United) left footed shot from the centre of the box goes wide. Supported by Mateusz Klich.
- Mateusz Klich (Leeds United) is penalised after committing a foul.
- Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
- The attempt failed. Oliver Burke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Sponsored by Rian Brewster.
- The attempt failed. Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United) header from the centre of the box misses to the left following a set piece situation.
- Rafinha (Leeds United) is penalised after committing a foul.
- David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
- Rodrigo (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
- Rodrigo (Leeds United) is penalised after committing a foul.
- John Fleck (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
- Corner, Sheffield United. Drafted by Diego Llorente.
- Replacement: Leeds United. Mateusz Klich replaces Tyler Roberts.
- The attempt failed. Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. After a brief interruption by Rafinha.
- Calvin Phillips (Leeds United) is floored.
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