Leeds United are nearing the end of their 16-year absence from the Premier League when a 5-0 victory over struggling Stoke City sent them back to the top of the league.
Goals on either side of the half laid the foundation, as Mateusz Klich came into play from the penalty spot at the end of a dominant first period before Helder Costa celebrated his permanent contract with a fair second after the break to complete a smooth movement.
Liam Cooper slammed into the third from inside the box shortly after Leeds took control, and Pablo Hernandez’s wonderfully precise effort from the edge of the box ended all of Stoke’s hopes.
Patrick Bamford swept the fifth of two posts in overtime to deliver a victory that moved Leeds over West Brom and created a six-point spread over Brentford in form in the third with four games left.
It was a painful evening for Michael O’Neill’s Stoke, who saw fiery defensive work come undone when Tommy Smith rushed to Costa to kick, and they failed to mount a meaningful challenge for the hosts.
While Leeds fans can expect championship visits to Anfield and Old Trafford next season if they earn a maximum of seven more points, Stoke must consider the possibility of leaving the championship at the other end of the table, as they sit just a point and a place above the relegation zone.
Determination to see Leeds’ work
Marcelo Bielsa’s squad fell to defeat in a four game winless streak against Wigan and Ipswich at the end of last season as their campaign unfolded, but that performance showed determination not to not let this year’s promotion fade.
The defeat against Cardiff and a draw against Luton have shown gaps in Leeds’ armor since the restart of the season after the coronavirus pandemic, but doubts as to their character have been dismissed in a performance of patience to get the lead, then unforgiving to lean on it. .
Stoke set up to contain with a solid back of five, but Leeds’ relentless front pushes still opened up chances; Bamford saw his effort cut off the line and Tyler Roberts’ follow-up was bravely blocked by Danny Batth.
Smith’s wild split on Costa gave Leeds a chance at the place that Klich converted with freezing precision and Leeds shifted into gear after rebooting as Costa grabbed the defense nap to go home .
They were fortunate not to be completely out of sight as Bamford hit the bar and forced a close save by Jack Butland, while Kalvin Phillips failed an 18 yard shot.
Cooper’s third before the end of the hour was final, crushing the post after Hernandez slipped behind Stoke’s defense, and the supplier became a goal scorer to dismiss the fourth killer as Bielsa Whites activated the style .
Visitors had a chance to console themselves as Leeds released their grip on the winning game, especially James McClean shooting over the top before Bamford crowned the hosts’ performance, adding a fifth with the final kick Match.
Leeds will go on Sunday for the Swansea playoff hopefuls and will face Derby in their last four matches as well as relegation rivals Stoke, Barnsley and Charlton.
The Potters have a final tricky quartet as they face prospect Brentford and Nottingham Forest for promotion, and will face a trip to Bristol City after their compatriots’ visit to Birmingham City on Sunday.