Leeds United 3 WBA 1

Last updated : 12 August 2021 By Aaron Bower at Elland Road

There was a carnival atmosphere inside Elland Road, and the party is set to continue next season. Marcelo Bielsa has revolutionised Leeds United in the three years since he took charge of a sleeping giant that had lost their way as a club, and the 65-year-old will continue for a fourth successive season after agreeing to terms on a new contract.

Leeds are expected to confirm that Bielsa has signed another 12-month rolling contract in the coming days, which will only further enhance the mood that surrounds the club since their return to the Premier League. This victory, a comfortable dispatch of already-relegated West Brom, ensured a ninth-placed finish for Leeds, their highest since the 2001-02 season.

That season, the Whites finished fifth and were littered with household names. It has been a lean period for such a famous club since then, but with Bielsa here to stay, and Leeds’ high-octane style of football earning admirers every time they take to the field, it hard to put a ceiling on just how far this club can go in their second season back among the game’s elite.

Few clubs could match the intensity and atmosphere the 8,000 Leeds supporters generated inside Elland Road as they returned through the turnstiles for the first time since last March. Even yesterday, on a day which was more about celebrating how far this club has come and bidding farewell to two of their heroes, Leeds did not relent.

They pressed, they hassled and they attacked with swashbuckling thrill and excitement. There was an audible gasp every time Bielsa’s side surged forward on the counterattack here, as the home side emphatically underlined the difference in journeys the top two in last season’s Championship have taken in the past year.

“I’m very satisfied with what the team has achieved, but on the other hand, we could have added more points,” an ever-demanding Bielsa said afterwards, before again remaining coy on his future. “Everything Leeds offers to a coach exceeds the expectations of those who have the job,” he added.

A run of four successive victories to finish should also finally lay rest to the claim that Bielsa’s sides burn out as the season reaches its climax. If anything, Leeds have produced some of their best stuff in the final throes of a campaign. To suggest it bodes well for the future is something of an understatement.

It is, however, emphatically clear what awaits West Brom this summer: another managerial change to contend with, the fall-out of a record-equalling fifth Premier League relegation and another stint in the Championship.

This defeat was, in many ways, their season in a nutshell. They threatened on occasions, and certainly had opportunities to trouble Leeds.

But by the time Hal Robson-Kanu capitalised on a Kalvin Phillips error in the final minute, the result was long since decided.

The noise was already deafening inside Elland Road pre-match, but it was raised an extra decibel when Rodrigo turned home a Raphinha corner to put Leeds ahead midway through the first half.
Leeds doubled their lead when Phillips’ free-kick bounced over Sam Johnstone just before the break, but his afternoon would end on a sour note, when injuring his shoulder making a tackle in the final seconds. Leeds will discover the extent of that injury in the coming days, which could yet bring his chances of selection for Gareth Southgate’s England squad into jeopardy.

This was certainly not the way Sam Allardyce would have wanted his final game in charge to go, but what does he believe his successor will inherit? “The basis of a Championship squad that can challenge, and the experience they’ve had this year will make them better when they go back down,” Allardyce conceded post-match.

Had Matt Phillips’s effort squirmed in instead of hitting the post shortly after half-time, the outcome may have been different. But this felt like a day of celebration for Leeds rather than anything else, underlined by the scenes when long-serving duo Pablo Hernández and Gaetano Berardi were substituted in the final quarter.

Shortly after, Patrick Bamford coolly converted a penalty to make it 3-0 after Okay Yukuslu was adjudged to have handled in the box, and the 8,000 supporters present were increasingly sounding like 40,000. Not even Robson-Kanu’s late goal could temper the mood, with the party showing no signs of slowing down, just like Leeds this season. El Loco is here to stay, and on the basis of what we’ve seen the season, so are Leeds United.