Tyler Roberts stepped off the bench to add gloss to an emphatic Leeds United performance at Hull City on Saturday, with the forward’s brace rounding off an impressive 4-0 victory in East Yorkshire.
Leeds were in complete control at the time Marcelo Bielsa opted to introduce Roberts, with goals from Luke Ayling and Pablo Hernandez at the start of each half denting any hopes the Tigers had of getting something against their promotion-chasing Yorkshire rivals.
Ayling opened the scoring after just five minutes with a deflected shot from 30-yards, with Hernandez doubling that lead at the start of the second-half, latching onto a slipped Helder Costa pass to bury into the corner of George Long’s goal.
Long was in inspired from throughout the second-half, denying Costa, Jack Harrison and Mateusz Klich to keep things respectable. However, Roberts came off the bench to score twice in a blistering three minute period, handing Leeds what their performance deserved in Hull: three points and an emphatic scoreline.
For Roberts, it was a clinical 23-minute cameo from the bench, with the Welsh international succeeding where Patrick Bamford had failed in the opening 67 minutes of the game.
It isn’t often we see much of Roberts in the ‘Bamford role’, with Bielsa morphing him into an attacking midfielder in the main, albeit with an ability to drift wide or play as the main focal point. Nevertheless, an injury to Jean-Kevin Augustin has propelled Roberts to Bamford’s back-up in Bielsa’s plans, with the 21-year-old doing his prospects of a chance in the starting XI no harm:
As our graphic shows, Roberts scored twice from the two shots he had on George Long’s goal having entered the field of play on 67 minutes; outperforming his xG column in the process.
Roberts’ first came on 81 minutes, with the striker finding himself on hand to fire past Long from 12 yards after an impressive Leeds move tore the Tigers apart. Bielsa’s side worked the ball from the left-back position into the feet of Roberts, whose half-turn set Leeds running freely into Hull territory. After feeding Costa on the right, Roberts continued his run into the penalty area, and when his teammate found Klich in the penalty area, the Pole’s deft lay-off allowed Roberts to rush onto the ball and dispatch a shot beyond Long.
Just three minutes later, Roberts was in the right place at the right time to convert another chance, with Klich again the provider. The midfielder found himself with time bursting into the final third, with a precise clipped cross finding Roberts’ clever run off the back of Matthew Pennington and the forward’s header looping across the helpless Long to find the far corner.
Those goals came from two of Roberts’ three touches in the Hull penalty area, with his centre-forward play a stark contrast to what we saw from Bamford in the opening 67 minutes.
Bamford failed to register a shot on Long’s goal or a touch in his penalty area, despite Leeds’ dominance, whilst he could only match Roberts’ one progressive run and deliver six accurate passes.
The fact that the bulk of Roberts’ numbers either better or match Bamford, despite playing around a third of the minutes of his teammate, underline how seamlessly he slotted into the game; only two passes failed to find Leeds players and one of Roberts’ accurate balls keeping a flowing move going in the build-up to the third goal.
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Of course, these stats do not highlight some of the fine work Bamford does when Leeds are out of possession, with the 26-year-old’s ability to press defenders and set the tone of Leeds’ performance something that’s seen as invaluable in the eyes of Bielsa.
Bielsa has had unwavering faith in Bamford this season despite his struggles for consistent goals causing the 64-year-old a headache, and even though the striker has had a goalless February, it is unlikely we will see a knee-jerk selection despite the impressive cameo of Roberts.
However, Bielsa is also very aware of the criticism levelled at his side over their conversion rate in the Championship this season, and post-match stressed it was important that one of his strikers (Roberts) had been involved in the goals at the KCOM Stadium.
Next up for Leeds is a West Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town at Elland Road, with Bielsa’s men unlikely to be afforded the free ride they were by Hull on Saturday; Danny Cowley’s side are bang in-form after back-to-back wins, which include a 4-0 victory of their own last time out against Charlton Athletic.
History tells us these fixtures can often be an arm wrestle, which will probably suit Bamford more than Roberts, with the former’s ability to ‘mix it up’ winning Leeds some valuable points already over the course of the season. However, in Roberts, Bielsa now has an alternative brimming with confidence and with the bit between his teeth.
A clinical 23 minutes in Hull has given Bielsa a fresh headache in attack; one that’s very different to what he’s been dealt before.