Patrick Bamford may have to rethink any plans he might have made for the summer. In scoring his 13th Premier League goal of the season, the Leeds striker made it that little bit harder for Gareth Southgate to continue overlooking his increasingly compelling candidature for England’s European Championship squad.
Two further goals, from Stuart Dallas and the outstanding Raphinha, lifted Leeds to 10th, emphasising precisely why the Elland Road board are so keen to extend Marcelo Bielsa’s managerial contract beyond the summer.
The Argentinian seems minded to stay but Ralph Hasenhüttl looks on slightly shaky ground as Southampton’s new year slump continues.
“We gave up in the second half and this is not what I like,” said Hasenhüttl, whose side are only eight points clear of the relegation zone. “We are losing and this is not perfect. Leeds have good one against one quality and they showed our weakness. We could not manage them – it’s tough to take.”
Jannik Vestergaard quickly headed narrowly wide from James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick after losing Pascal Struijk, while the impressive Nathan Tella sashayed beyond a static Liam Cooper before shooting benignly at Illan Meslier.
The underfoot conditions were particularly affecting Diego Llorente as he made his Elland Road debut on the right of Bielsa’s back three but if the Spaniard’s passing radar was a little awry, Raphinha soon found his range to eye-catching effect.
As the Brazilian winger used his considerable, and highly improvisational, skill to dodge Mohammed Salisu a goal beckoned for Tyler Roberts. When Roberts met Raphinha’s cushioned cutback he really should have scored, but, instead miscued, driving over the bar from 12 yards.
Tella thought he had won a penalty after Andre Marriner adjudged him to have been felled by Llorente in the box. A VAR review changed that decision, with the pitchside monitor highlighting Llorente’s attempt to withdraw from the challenge as Tella’s trailing leg invited what proved minimal contact.
An absorbing 45 minutes concluded with a slightly surreal cameo involving Che Adams shooting low into the bottom corner after Ward-Prowse’s rapid free kick caught the Leeds defence cold. Southampton, though, had not waited for the whistle and Marriner disallowed it.
Although Meslier performed wonders to divert Stuart Armstrong’s capriciously dipping shot, the power balance had altered irrevocably and Hasenhüttl could only watch in horror as a Raphinha rich Leeds counterattack concluded with Helder Costa squaring for Dallas to score the second from the edge of the area.
Raphinha’s characteristically high calibre left-footed free-kick exacerbated Southampton’s misery. “Raphinha’s very necessary because he can unbalance teams by himself,” said Bielsa. “I can add very little to his game. The best thing you can do with players who are so spontaneous is to let them be themselves.”