Leeds United 1-0 Reading: Pablo Hernandez strikes for hosts to give them crucial win in promotion hunt despite Kalvin Phillips’ first-half injury
- Leeds suffered a first-half blow as key man Kalvin Phillips went off with an injury
- They managed to open the scoring through Pablo Hernandez after the break
- Marcelo Bielsa’s side held out for the rest of the game and picked up the win
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. After 57 minutes of toil and frustration in the home stands, Pablo Hernandez took matters into his own hands.
Leeds’ creative fulcrum, who has become a firm favourite since arriving four seasons ago, broke the deadlock with a goal which could be worth its weight in gold.
The ageing playmaker – he’s 35 in a couple of months – once again proved to be above much of the endless industry that so typifies the Championship. When Helder Costa neatly laid the ball into Hernandez’s path, he hit a low right-foot shot which Reading defender Liam Moore blocked.
Pablo Hernandez celebrates in front of the south stand at Elland Road after scoring the opener
The midfielder struck in the second-half for Leeds as they aimed to pick up three points
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Casilla 6; Ayling 6, Cooper 6, White 6, Dallas 7; Phillips 6 (Alioski 38, 6); Costa 6, Klich 6, Hernandez 8 (Shackleton 85), Harrison 6; Bamford 6
Subs not used: Meslier (GK), Casey, Douglas, Roberts, Augustin
Manager Rating: Marcelo Bielsa 6
Reading (4-5-1): Cabral 7; Yiadom 6, Morrison 7, Moore 7, Richards 6; Rinomhota 6, Pele 6, Olise 6, Swift 6 (Adam 76, 6), Meite 6; Puscas 6.
Subs: Walker, Baldock, Obita, Araruna, Olise, Blackett.
Booked: Swift, Meite
Manager Rating: Mark Bowen 6
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Still, Hernandez had the presence of mind to collect the loose ball and expertly engineer the space to hit a fierce shot which flew past Rafael Cabral and into the top corner.
Hernandez may lack the pace he once had but these days his speed of thought compensates for what his legs can no longer achieve. The former Valencia star’s contribution secured a win which lifted Marcelo Bielsa’s side five points clear of third-placed Fulham with 12 games remaining.
There are concerns elsewhere for Leeds – key midfielder Kalvin Phillips was forced off after 37 minutes with a leg injury and goalkeeper Kiko Casilla is still awaiting the Football Association’s verdict over his case of alleged racism.
Casilla’s hearing into an alleged remark of a racist nature towards striker Jonathan Leko in the 1-0 defeat at Charlton Athletic at the end of September took place in London this week and a verdict is expected shortly.
The Royals won the toss and made Leeds play towards the Kop in the first half and inside the second minute that end of the ground almost saw the opening goal.
Hernandez whipped in a dangerous left-wing cross and, although Patrick Bamford connected with his head, he could not divert the ball goalwards.
Leeds suffered a serious blow in the first-half as key midfielder Kalvin Phillips went off injured
Two minutes later, Leeds went even closer when Costa skilfully engineered the space to break clear inside the right channel.
The on-loan Wolves winger could have squared the ball across the face of goal but instead opted to hit a fierce left-foot shot which flew just past Cabral’s far post.
Reading showed fleeting signs of an attacking threat on the counter-attack but Leeds went close again in the 12th minute.
Jack Harrison collected Phillips’ pass and drilled in a low delivery from the left flank which Bamford failed to connect with from 10 yards. In the 25th minute, George Puscas hit a 25-yard shot which drew a save from Casilla before Phillips was forced off with a leg injury.
The homegrown star tried to run it off, but it was to no avail and he was replaced by Ezgjan Alioski in a substitution which saw Ben White push up from centre-half into Phillips’ role.
Marcelo Bielsa crouches down in his technical area while watching the clash at Elland Road
Still Leeds continued to probe and Harrison crossed low from the left to Costa, whose effort was expertly blocked by Moore. Ayling volleyed over the crossbar on the stroke of half-time before Alioski saw a close-range effort repelled by Cabral in added time.
Seven minutes after the break, Costa shot wide from 10 yards out but it was soon time for Hernandez’s decisive moment as he smashed in a goal which raised the roof off Elland Road.
Hernandez went close again with a free-kick which forced Cabral into action and the veteran was then replaced by Jamie Shackleton five minutes from time to a standing ovation.
There was late drama when Moore broke clear inside the penalty box late on and Casilla smothered his effort, much to the delight of the home crowd, who were celebrating moments later when the final whistle sounded.
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