These clubs came up together from the Championship last season but now look worlds apart. Leeds have enriched the Premier League with a thrilling style that few teams can rival – and certainly not West Brom who came into this came hoping to build on Sunday’s draw with Liverpool but were humiliated long before the end.
The scoring began with a ludicrous own-goal by Romaine Sawyers, but after that Leeds put on a spellbinding demonstration of intense and imaginative attacking. To witness it was to be uplifted. Unless, of course, you support West Brom. Or manage them.
This was billed as a meeting of minds like none previously seen in the Premier League, with caricatures depicting the confrontation between Marcelo Bielsa and Sam Allardyce as a contrast almost comparable to Don Quixote v Don Corleone. Bogus as that was, there is no doubt both managers promote different visions. But Allardyce, who is still assessing what he has inherited at the Hawthorns, must not have believed his eyes as he saw how things started going wrong for his team even before kick-off.
Having initially chosen to field the side that started the defiant draw at Anfield, Allardyce had to make a late alteration when Kieran Gibbs was hit by a ball during the warm-up, Lee Peltier being drafted in at left-back in his place. It was nowhere near as farcical as the own-goal that Albion managed to score after just nine minutes.
When Sawyers received the ball 25 yards out, he saw two Leeds players haring towards him and apparently got flustered, turning around and playing the ball blindly back to where he presumed his goalkeeper would be. But Sam Johnstone was standing several yards to the left of his goal and he and Sawyers could only watch aghast as the ball rolled into the unguarded net.
Following Jake Livermore’s red card in Allardyce’s first home match with West Brom (a 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa) and Matheus Pereira’s sending-off in Slaven Bilic’s last home match in charge (a 5-1 defeat at the Hawthorns by Crystal Palace) this was a preposterous new form of self-destruction.
That goal also highlighted the real contrast here. Whereas West Brom seemed sluggish and confused, Leeds were beautifully in sync with each other. With Kalvin Philipps conducting matters in midfield, Leeds passed, dribbled and darted around dumbfounded hosts. What little doubt there was about the result exploded just after the half hour when Ezgjan Alioski rammed a ferocious shot into the net after the ball broke to him at the edge of the box.
Leeds scored two more goals before the break, each a masterpiece of collective creation. First, Jack Harrison took a pass from Alioski wide on the left and skittered in-field to cut through the heart of the home defence, playing a one-two with Patrick Bamford before artfully switching the ball on to his left foot and lifting it over frantic challenges from Darnell Furlong and Johnstone into the roof of the net.
The visitors’ fourth came four minutes later from a flowing move down the right. Bamford laid the ball back to Rodrigo, whose drive from 20 yards benefited from a deflection off Dara O’Shea to leave Johnstone helpless.
At least West Brom’s goalkeeper was able to prevent Leeds from making it 5-0 before the break, Johnstone plunging to his right to turn away a rasping shot from Raphinha.
All the home side had been able to muster by way of threat at the other end was a corner that Ilan Meslier clawed away awkwardly, plus a couple of crosses intended to exploited the absence of Leeds’ first-choice centre-backs.
They came out for the second half on a mission to salvage some dignity from a match they had obviously lost. They did a fair job of stemming Leeds’ flow, until the 71st minute. Leeds swept down the right with dinky combinations before Raphinha raced in off the line and bent a left-footed shot from the edge of the box into the top corner.