Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds moved up to 10 points after ending their 16-year Premier League exile with an extensive win over Blackburn in the mid-list.
It was common in recent seasons for Leeds to be roared by up to 7000 visiting fans in this match, but on this occasion they did not need their 12th man to produce the level of performance that has become common in leaving their promotional destination well and truly in their own hands with five games to go.
Stunning finishes from top scorer Patrick Bamford and dynamic midfielder Kalvin Phillips opened a 2-0 lead in the break and Mateusz Klich completed the score in the second half after Adam Armstrong cut the deficit in half.
Kalvin Phillips scored a brilliant free kick when Leeds United defeated Blackburn at Ewood Park
The midfielder curled the ball over the wall and in the top corner for the visitors
It was at this stage last season that Leeds lost his legs. Here, the way they outnumber Rovers suggests that Brentford will do their job of capturing the Yorkshire club, even if they stay clear to the championship finish.
Blackburn was punished twice for mistakes in their home territory during a stunning first half of Bielsa’s team’s offensive football.
The visitors continued as early as the seventh minute, when Lewis Travis coughed up possession in midfield and Mateusz Klich ruled exactly the pass right – no easy feat on a surface swallowed by wet weather – for Bamford to pass the ball for the first time range of Christian Walton and within the goalkeeper’s right hand, just inside the area.
Given the combination of Leeds’ offensive prowess and harsh conditions, Travis would be forgiven for wondering why it always rained on him.
Due to the early scoring of the league leaders, Blackburn was forced to press a response rather than make his way into the game, not that such a need seemed to bother them.
Patrick Bamford gave Leeds United an early lead after good pressure from Mateusz Klich
Blackburn’s top scorer Adam Armstrong brought the hosts back into the game in the 48th minute
Former Leeds midfielder Bradley Johnson had already tested Illan Meslier with a skimming drive within seconds of kick-off.
FACTS BOX TITLE
Blackburn XI: Walton, Nyambe, Adarabioyo, Lenihan, Bennett (Downing 22 ‘), Travis (Davenport 69’), Johnson, Rothwell (Buckley 69 ‘), Holtby (Samuel 60’), Gallagher (Graham 60 ‘), Armstrong.
Unused Subs: Leutwiler, Chapman, Mulgrew, Carter.
Goals: Armstrong 48 ‘.
Leeds United XI: Meslier, Ayling, White, Cooper, Douglas, Phillips, Alioski, Roberts (Hernandez 62 ‘), Klich (Shackleton 87’), Harrison, Bamford.
Unused Subs: Miazek, Berardi, Davis, Struijek, Stevens, Gotts, Poveda.
Goals: Bamford 7 ‘, Phillips 40’, Klich 53 ‘.
And during a five-minute purple patch immediately after the Bamford opener, Tony Mowbray’s team went twice within inches of the equalizer.
First, a bold pass from Joe Rothwell offered Sam Gallagher the chance to plunder past the back line of Leeds and keep his composure to slip past the approaching Meslier just to haunt the ball from the wrong side of the rebellion from a Blackburn perspective.
Undaunted, Blackburn tried again from their next hold phase and got even closer to 1-1 by their former German midfielder Lewis Holtby.
An exchange of passes with Armstrong in the Leeds area provided room for a measured shot, which hit the inside of the post and bounced off a pair of Leeds boots.
But the dangers of leaving space against the energy of this Leeds team’s effort were highlighted in the 27th minute when a quick counter peaked with Bamford revolving around a first shot against the base of the woodwork on the stroking the other side.
However, there was no rest for Blackburn when Holtby’s too enthusiastic lunge to Tyler was punished by referee Robert Jones seven minutes before the break.
Kalvin Phillips has many qualities as a central midfielder and of a quality high enough to repeatedly attract the attention of English manager Gareth Southgate this year, although not among the goals.
Not that you would have known from the way that he confidently aimed the ball out 25 meters and cut it right into the top corner with a swing of his right foot. Nevertheless, it doubled its score for the season.
Ryan Nyambe passes the ball past Leeds striker Ezgjan Alioski in their championship game
Blackburn’s Sam Gallagher dribbles with the ball, trying to narrow the Leeds lead
The luxury of that two-goal cushion didn’t last long after the restart, as Armstong picked himself up after being hindered by Phillips 20 yards away to add another stunning free-kick to the game’s highlights.
However, the goal that bolstered Leeds’ stranglehold on the game half a dozen minutes later was more fortune than finesse, as Jack Harrison’s initial attempt was blocked by Tosin Adarabioyo and deflected down an unfortunate Walton by Klich.
Luke Ayling wanted to uncover Blackburn’s use of substitute Stewart Downing as an impromptu left back and Leeds’ creative sprite, Pablo Hernandez, who was in charge of the final half-hour victory could have had a bigger margin.
But after waiting so long for top football, it’s all about results for Leeds supporters now.