West Bromwich Albion H 23rd May 2021
With the news that the final game of the season today marks the last one for both Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi as Leeds United players, it was going to be emotional. With fans back in the stadium for the first time since the Coronavirus outbreak, at least they would make some noise to give the lads a good send off. Thank you, Paul, for buying my book Leeds Are Going to the Premier League. After a quick trip to the Peacock where it was good to catch up with Dave who I had not seen for many a year; he travelled with a group of us to Celtic for a friendly on 11th February 1976. Sorry I could not catch up with some of you in the lower part as I had to move on.
Although the queues were very long outside the Kop, the queue went down very quickly with us first having to show our tickets and the questionnaire email, before showing our ID at the entrance. The group in front of us going into the West Stand were having their tickets scanned but the scanner said they did not exist. After a short while this was rectified, and everyone got inside without further issues. The West Stand was initially not being used for the game but the upper part where we were had been filled. With wooden seats still there, it is not a surprise that the West Stand is overdue for renewal. To say we were in the corner too, there was a very strong cold wind.
Team: Casilla, Ayling, Alioski, Berardi, Cooper, Phillips, Harrison, Rodrigo, Raphinha, Dallas and Hernandez. Subs: Bamford for Rodrigo (45) and a double substitution for Berardi (Struijk) and Hernandez (Roberts) on 70 minutes gave both players the chance to get a standing ovation which was very emotional. Subs not used: Meslier, Shackleton, Poveda, Casey, Davis and Jenkins. Leeds won the game 3-1 with goals from Rodrigo (17), Phillips (42) and a Bamford penalty (78). Attendance: 8,000 Leeds fans. Referee: David Coote. Booked: Phillips.
It was good to hear the fans singing Marching on Together alongside the music as the team came out onto the pitch. Despite all the social distancing in place, there was a good atmosphere. West Bromwich came close in the opening minutes before Leeds took what we thought was an early lead. After a good attacking run, Hernandez passed across the box where Rodrigo’s pass was met by Harrison who put the ball into the net, only to see this chalked off for offside. We did not have too long to wait for a goal as Raphinha won a corner for Leeds which he took himself. Rodrigo was waiting at the far post to head the ball into the net to put Leeds into the lead in front of the cheering fans. The team were making some good runs and displaying some great attacking football. Raphinha back in defence, made a vital challenge as WBA tried to get back into the game. It was lovely seeing both Hernandez and Berardi playing well and eventually after initially having some fans singing the old version of the song, both heard their names sung by the fans. Pablo Hernandez, Pablo Hernandez, Pablo Hernandez plays for United wi Gaetano Berardi. Gaetano Berardi, Gaetano Berardi, Gaetano Berardi plays for United wi Pablo Hernandez. Just before half time Hernandez was fouled and won Leeds a free kick just outside the box. Phillips hit a great shot into the net from the free kick to score his first Premier League goal as Leeds went into the break with a two-goal cushion. Happy 60th birthday Martin and thanks for the photo.
Bamford was brought on for the start of the second half in place of Rodrigo. Hernandez was doing his best to score a final goal for Leeds, but the WBA keeper saved both his shots. Berardi too tried getting on the score sheet alongside Ayling but were unlucky. WBA decided to up their game and we were very lucky to see the ball eventually go past the outside of the post. That was a little too close for comfort, but it was good to see how relieved the players were as they had a laugh between them. When the trainer called for Struijk and Roberts to come back from warming up, we realised that there was going to be a double substitution and that Berardi and Hernandez were going to come off together. It was very emotional seeing the hugging from the rest of the team with Alioski in tears as both players made their way off the pitch to a standing ovation. Thanks for everything lads and you will never be forgotten, having been part of our Championship Promotion last season. Eight minutes later Leeds won a penalty for handball and my first thoughts were that Hernandez would have taken it if still on the pitch. As it was Bamford stepped up to score his 17th goal of the season giving him a fantastic record for our first season back in the Premier League. With Leeds in full control and despite some pressure from WBA, it took a mistake from Leeds for them to pull a goal back on 90 minutes. In added time Phillips went down holding his shoulder after a challenge and needed treatment. As the whistle blew for full time, Leeds have had a fantastic season with a credible 9th place. Marcelo Bielsa and the team have made an impact with some fantastic attacking football, having pride in the shirt and never giving up, giving Leeds fans a season to be proud of.
I look forward to having everything back to normal at the start of next season with full crowds in attendance. For those of you who look forward to my blogs and photos, thank you once again for your support and I appreciate your comments. To all of those I spoke to today, it was great to talk, and I look forward to catching up with you again. LUFC – Marching on Together!