Diego Llorente marked his return with a vital goal to help Leeds United break their Premier League duck against Watford at Elland Road on Saturday.
Leeds held on to a slender 1-0 lead over Watford to secure their first Premier League victory of the season, with centre-back Diego Llorente scoring the only goal of the game in the first half. The hosts were under pressure coming into the game as they found themselves in the bottom three early this season but grabbed crucial three points to rise above the drop zone.
The hosts put up a strong display, seeming to be coming back in shape, and they deservedly went into the lead through returning Diego Llorente, who was quick to dispatch the loose ball in the penalty area in the 18th minute.
Watford were all over the place, looked lethargic, misplacing the passes, making errors while surrendering the possession far too often. The Hornets were conceding shot after shot from Leeds attack – though only a handful troubled Ben Foster and responded with only a single shot on target.
The Whites had several chances to kill the game off, but to their generosity, they missed those to keep Watford alive, and they were nearly made to pay late on in the game when Illan Meslier let the ball slip through his gloves and watched in terror as it was trickled over the line by lurking Christian Kabasele. But thankfully for the Frenchman, the goal was disallowed owing to a contentious foul on Leeds centre-back Liam Cooper.
The front three of Raphinha, Daniel James and Rodrigo were a constant threat and kept Watford largely on backfoot and were effectively supported in attack by Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas making runs from midfield. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Bielsa’s men after clinching vital three-points.
Illan Meslier: 5.5/10
There wasn’t much to do for the youngster against a lacklustre Watford attack as he barely had to make any saves. Got away with a blunder when he spilt the ball out of his hands as Watford’s equalizer was chalked off for a contentious foul in the penalty area.
Jamie Shackleton: 6.5/10
Made a couple of surges forward and displayed lots of energy throughout the game but did not shine bright as he would like to. Overall, a solid performance from the right-back who largely kept Emmanuel Dennis in his back pocket.
Diego Llorente: 8/10
Diego Llorente vs. Watford:
90% pass accuracy
61/68 successful passes
8 ball recoveries
3/6 successful long passes
2/2 tackles won
1 goal ⚽️
Returned to the side and scored the all-important match winner. 💪 pic.twitter.com/oNLwpF1C6V
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) October 2, 2021
Llorente’s restoration to central defence following injury provided Leeds with comforting stability as well as a source of excellent distribution out from the back. The Spain international’s incredible passing range kept Watford on the ropes. He launched several attacks and completely nullified Josh King, while also scoring the match-winning goal.
Liam Cooper: 7/10
A game with so much at stake, with many nerves before the kick-off, but the Leeds captain steered the side through a tough spell. He was largely untroubled on the day but was aggressive whenever Watford tried to enter the final third. He was decent on the ball and completed nine successful long balls – most on the day.
Junior Firpo: 7/10
Firpo fared far better than in his recent games. Kept Ismaila Sarr at bay. Played on the borderline at times, but Sarr didn’t capitalize. He saw a lot of the ball on the left-hand side and pushed forwards to provide an outlet.
Junior Firpo ranked for Leeds v Watford:
87% pass acc.
39/45 succ. passes
12/16 final third passes
9 recoveries (🥈)
4 clearances (🥇)
4 duels won
2 chances created
2/3 succ. long passes
1 succ. tackle
1/1 succ. take-on
0 times dribbled past pic.twitter.com/0lCCOXpIpT
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) October 2, 2021
Kalvin Phillips: 6.5/10
Effortless and tidy performance from the England international, who kept everything ticking and dictated the midfield. Single-handedly played out of the minor press offered by Watford.
Stuart Dallas: 6/10
Some encouraging signs again after being deployed in the middle, but the end product was some way off, either be it the final pass or a shot on goal. He drove forwards from midfield to assist the attack. Had many opportunities to score near the box but only challenged Ben Foster once.
Mateusz Klich: 7/10
He was a willing runner who covered much grass in the midfield and tried to create chances but couldn’t break the lines in a triangle with Dallas and Rodrigo as much he would want to.
As usual, Leeds most potent goal threat and hub of creativity and threat. He floated about the field and had a poise about him whenever he carried the ball.
Played in the number nine role in the absence of Bamford. Was Lively and crafty as he linked up very well with Raphinha. He made a few good runs, but the ball just didn’t fall into his path on the day despite him occupying great scoring positions.
Daniel James: 7/10
A direct runner, James caused Watford a lot of problems with his incredible pace and clever movement. He linked up well with the team in passing patterns and is slowly bedding into the Leeds system. Was pressing intensely off the ball.
Tyler Roberts: 6/10
He had a glorious opportunity very late to seal the game, Foster fumbled a Leeds free-kick, and Tyler Roberts sent the rebound towards the goal only for Kucka to clear it off the line. Had the ball returned to him by the Leeds midfield immediately but his second shot was deflected off the crossbar before Watford finally cleared it.
Pascal Struijk: N/A
Came late on in the stoppage time, returned from a spell on the sidelines due to a red-card suspension.