Raphinha magic caps Leeds victory as Hasenhüttl says Southampton 'gave up'

Louise Taylor at Elland Road
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA</span>
Photograph: Gareth Copley/PA

Patrick Bamford may have to rethink any plans he might have made for the summer. In scoring his 13th Premier League goal of the season, the Leeds striker made it that little bit harder for Gareth Southgate to continue overlooking his increasingly compelling candidature for England’s European Championship squad.

Two further goals, from Stuart Dallas and the outstanding Raphinha, lifted Leeds to 10th, emphasising precisely why the Elland Road board are so keen to extend Marcelo Bielsa’s managerial contract beyond the summer.

The Argentinian seems minded to stay but Ralph Hasenhüttl looks on slightly shaky ground as Southampton’s new year slump continues.

“We gave up in the second half and this is not what I like,” said Hasenhüttl, whose side are only eight points clear of the relegation zone. “We are losing and this is not perfect. Leeds have good one against one quality and they showed our weakness. We could not manage them – it’s tough to take.”

Related: Leeds United v Southampton: Premier League – live!

Bielsa switched from his default 4-1-4-1 formation to the 3-3-1-3 configuration he favours when facing two strikers and, at first, his players looked deceptively uneasy, leaving Southampton sensing opportunity.

Jannik Vestergaard quickly headed narrowly wide from James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick after losing Pascal Struijk, while the impressive Nathan Tella sashayed beyond a static Liam Cooper before shooting benignly at Illan Meslier.

It was hard to believe Hasenhüttl’s side had collected only four points in 2021 but, initially at least, Southampton adapted better to the slippery, sticky, fast cutting up, mudbath of a pitch.

The underfoot conditions were particularly affecting Diego Llorente as he made his Elland Road debut on the right of Bielsa’s back three but if the Spaniard’s passing radar was a little awry, Raphinha soon found his range to eye-catching effect.

As the Brazilian winger used his considerable, and highly improvisational, skill to dodge Mohammed Salisu a goal beckoned for Tyler Roberts. When Roberts met Raphinha’s cushioned cutback he really should have scored, but, instead miscued, driving over the bar from 12 yards.

Tella thought he had won a penalty after Andre Marriner adjudged him to have been felled by Llorente in the box. A VAR review changed that decision, with the pitchside monitor highlighting Llorente’s attempt to withdraw from the challenge as Tella’s trailing leg invited what proved minimal contact.

By half time Leeds would have been ahead but for an outstanding tackle on Raphinha from Oriel Romeu. Bielsa’s side had broken swiftly from a Southampton corner, with Dallas’s through ball leaving Raphinha accelerating towards Alex McCarthy’s goal. Yet just as the Brazilian shaped to shoot, Romeu intercepted to goal preventing effect.

An absorbing 45 minutes concluded with a slightly surreal cameo involving Che Adams shooting low into the bottom corner after Ward-Prowse’s rapid free kick caught the Leeds defence cold. Southampton, though, had not waited for the whistle and Marriner disallowed it.

There was no such controversy about Bamford’s 48th-minute goal. Bielsa’s leading scorer had hitherto been restricted to half-chances but, after connecting with Roberts’s intelligent through pass his well-timed run left Jan Bednarek and Vestergaard bisected. All that remained was for Bamford to shift the ball onto his left foot and evade the diving McCarthy’s reach courtesy of a beautifully weighted, cleverly placed, low shot.

Although Meslier performed wonders to divert Stuart Armstrong’s capriciously dipping shot, the power balance had altered irrevocably and Hasenhüttl could only watch in horror as a Raphinha rich Leeds counterattack concluded with Helder Costa squaring for Dallas to score the second from the edge of the area.

Raphinha’s characteristically high calibre left-footed free-kick exacerbated Southampton’s misery. “Raphinha’s very necessary because he can unbalance teams by himself,” said Bielsa. “I can add very little to his game. The best thing you can do with players who are so spontaneous is to let them be themselves.”