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West Brom 4 Leeds 1 - Report and pictures

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

It's hard to imagine a better tonic after four games without victory, because this was more than just a return to winning ways.

Leeds started the weekend top of the table, but they were taken apart by a clinical Baggies side who scored four second half goals.

Hal Robson-Kanu started things off shortly after half-time before Matt Phillips added an individual second in the 68th minute.

Two goals in two minutes from Harvey Barnes and substitute Dwight Gayle put a gloss on the scoreline towards the end before Pablo Hernandez grabbed a late consolation in injury time.

For those that weren't at The Hawthorns, it may seem at first glance that this was a simply a night when Albion's devastating attack clicked.

But it was much more than that. It was their most complete performance of the season, built on a solid defensive base and a return to basics.

West Brom 4 Leeds 1 - Baggies fans buoyant following rout

This result and this performance did more than just restore Albion's promotion credentials, it also restored faith in Darren Moore, which had started to wane in recent weeks.

As well as making the changes many had been crying out for, like switching to a back four and playing more direct, he also made some tactical tweaks many hadn't seen.

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Playing 4-3-3 put Leeds under pressure at the back, and bringing Robson-Kanu into the team proved a masterstroke.

As well as his expertly-taken goal, he gave the Baggies another, more physical, dimension up front.

But this was far more than a one-man show. From back to front Albion looked more organised, more robust and more determined.

There was an intensity that had been lacking in their anaemic performance at Hull.

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They started brightly, with Robson-Kanu evoking memories of Euro 2016 by winning a free-kick on the byline with a Cruyff-turn, before the same man curled inches over the bar after drifting inside.

But it was Albion's direct play that was noticeable. There were far more long balls up to the front three, and far more clipped aerials into the channels.

Rather than playing themselves into trouble at the back, the defenders were defending, and clearing it forward for the strikers to battle for.

Robson-Kanu was using his strength to hold those balss up, while the three in behind were running off him.

Twelve minutes in Albion nearly took the lead when Craig Dawson's header from a corner looped kindly to Tosin Adarabioyo 12 yards out.

The centre-back struck his volley sweetly for a defender, but it whistled just wide of the post.

Albion had the bit between their teeth, and Leeds didn't have an answer for their intensity.

Moments later Jay Rodriguez stung the palms of Bailey Peacock-Farrell after being put through by Harvey Barnes.

Matt Phillips looked in the mood, and nearly pulled off several piercing runs from deep.

Moore, meanwhile, was standing on the touchline, a good two feet outside his technical area with an intense look on his face. It was intensity his side was matching on the pitch.

Twenty minutes in, Leeds passed the ball straight back to Barnes, and the youngster played a one-two with Robson-Kanu, but the second pass was slightly overhit, forcing the Leicester loanee wide and he could only find the side netting.

It took until the 25th minute for the league leaders to threaten, when Pablo Hernandez skied his first time shot at the end of a fantastic one touch move.

But the chances were coming far more frequently up the other end. Moments later Rodriguez smacked the bar with a dipping, curling shot from 25 yards out after some typically direct running from Phillips.

Leeds did start to gain a foothold after that, but more often than not their passing moves broke down on the edge of Albion's box.

However, seven minutes before the break they did get in behind when Ezgjan Alioski pulled the ball back to Mateusz Klich in the middle in typical Bielsa fashion, but the midfielder's shot was straight at Johnstone and he beat it away.

Although they hadn't scored, it was a promising first half from the Baggies, and one of their best in recent weeks.

Two minutes after the break and Robson-Kanu was in the thick of the action again, making a nuisance of himself up front before going down under Stuart Dallas's challenge just inside the box.

But referee Lee Mason quickly waved away his half-hearted appeals for a penalty.

Five minutes after the break, and Leeds wanted a spot-kick thsmelves when Albion academy product Kemar Roofe went down softly under a Craig Dawson challenge.

But once again Lee Mason said no, and this time, the Baggies countered at speed.

James Morrison moved the ball out to Jay Rodriguez, who wriggled inside two players before finding Robson-Kanu on the left.

He lasered a low shot into Peacock-Farrell's bottom far corner to send The Hawthorns into raptures. It was nothing less than he and Albion deserved.

The Baggies were snapping into tackles and looking dangerous on the break. Six minutes later they nearly scored from another counter when Phillips rainbow flicked the ball over his man in midfield and found Robson-Kanu on the right.

The goalscorer picked out Barnes at the far post, but he sliced his volley wide.

While the score remained 1-0, Leeds always had a chance, but in the 68th minute Phillips made it two with a goal of supreme individual quality.

Dispossessing Mateusz Klich with a slide tackle in the centre circle, he drove at goal before firing in a long-range shot from 25 yards out.

Peacock-Farrell should have saved it, but it was still a memorable goal for the wideman.

Bielsa's reaction was to send one Albion academy product on for another, replacing Roofe with Tyler Roberts.

But it was Albion who continued to threaten, and they put a sheen on the scoreline with two goals in two minutes.

There was an element of luck about the third eight minutes from time, when Tosin Adrabioyo's tackle bounced kindly to Barnes, and the youngster was nearly tackled but the ball bounced over Peacock-Farrell and into the net.

A minute later and it was 4-0. Rodriguez, who deserved a goal, burst in from the byline and had a shot saved by Peacock-Farell, but Gayle, who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes, improvised brilliantly with his back to goal.

Backheeling the ball into the ground and over Peacock-Farrell, it was a cheeky finish that typifies this cheeky striker.

The only downside of the evening came in injury time, when Pablo Hernandez's header looped over Johnstone and robbed the backline of a clean sheet they so richly deserved.

The Baggies are back up and running after Moore's first blip in charge, and based on tonight's performance, they are capable of staying near the top of the table this season.

Key moments

12 Adarabioyo volleys inches wide from 12 yards out.

28 Rodriguez smacks the bar with a long-range curler.

50 Leeds want a penalty when Roofe goes down in the box under Dawson's challenge, but nothing's given.

51 GOAL ALBION - Baggies break away up the other end and Robson-Kanu lasers in a low shot into the far corner after good work from Rodriguez.

68 GOAL ALBION - Phillips dispossesses Klich before driving forward and firing a long-range effort in that Peacock-Farrell can't hold.

82 GOAL ALBION - Barnes capitalises on a kind through-ball and tucks hom a third.

83 GOAL ALBION - Gayle cheekily backheels the ball into the net after Rodriguez's shot is saved.

90+1 GOAL LEEDS - Hernandez's looping header gives Leeds a consolation

Man of the match

Hal Robson-Kanu - Plenty of contenders, but for his goal, and the impact he made, he just shades it.

Position in the table

5th, with 28 points from 17 games.

Teams

Albion (4-3-3): Johnstone; Adarabioyo, Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs (Mears 88); Phillips (Harper (90+2), Morrison, Livermore (c); Barnes; Rodriguez, Robson-Kanu (Gayle 80).

Unused subs: Myhill, Harper, Barry, Hoolahan, Sako.

Leeds United (3-3-1-3): Peacock-Farrell; Jansson, Phillips, Cooper (c); Dallas, Forshaw, Douglas (Harrison 73); Klich (Saiz 78); Alioski, Roofe (Roberts 66), Hernandez.

Unused subs: Blackman, Baker, Davis, Shackleton.

Referee: Lee Mason

Attendance: 25,661 (2,737 away)

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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