Leeds United 4-3 Fulham
Two games in, seven goals scored, seven goals conceded – no wonder Leeds are Premier League box office!
This clash of the newly promoted sides, the first top-flight game at Elland Road in 16 years, was yet another seven-goal thriller with Premier League 2020 highlights everywhere you looked.
Both sides need to tighten up defensively – of that, there is no doubt – but for the neutrals, this is sheer entertainment.
Highlights of the game
Perhaps there should be no surprise this game was won by the home side.
After all, the team playing at home has not lost any of the last eight league meetings between Leeds United and Fulham!
Sure enough, the hosts led early on too as the unmarked Hélder Costa controlled the ball inside the penalty area before crashing a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
The hosts’ starting XI was stronger after a much-changed team went out of the League Cup to Hull in midweek.
Yet they could not convert that early lead into further goals and Fulham levelled when Robin Koch fouled Joe Bryan and marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic slid the resulting penalty under Illan Meslier’s dive.
Another spot-kick was awarded before the break and saw Leeds back in front through a Mateusz Klich penalty.
Leeds’ record signing Rodrigo – promoted to the starting line-up after Pablo Hernandez was injured during the warm-up – failed to reappear for the second half, although it didn’t seem to matter as the home side further increased their lead in quick fashion.
First, Klich picked out Patrick Bamford on the edge of the area and the Leeds striker turned his marker before sliding a low shot beyond Alphonse Areola.
Then Costa expertly fired home the fourth from a Bamford cross.
At that point Fulham may have crumbled but, to their credit, they netted twice within five minutes.
Substitute Bobby Decordova-Reid reacted quickly to fire home from a difficult angle. Then, Mitrovic climbed above Liam Cooper to further reduce the arrears and suddenly Leeds looked nervous.
Mitrovic went close to claiming a leveller before another substitute, Neeskens Kebano, struck a post.
Leeds held on with SBOTOP everywhere you looked on a proud day for the club. How far their gung-ho approach can take them over the next eight months remains to be seen.
Fulham are among the favourites for the drop and certainly need to strengthen the squad, particularly at the back, and have been linked with a move for a centre-back in recent days.
However, this was an improved display from Scott Parker’s team, who would love nothing more than to defy the Premier League 2020 betting odds this season.
Leeds’ opening two Premier League games have seen 14 goals – the most for a top-flight side’s opening two matches since Wolves in 1962-63 (for 12, against two – also 14).
In his 157th match in all competitions in English football, this was the first time Costa had scored twice in a match.
His opener was the quickest top-flight Leeds goal at home since April 2003 when Mark Viduka netted after four minutes – also against Fulham.
Bamford has two goals in his last two Premier League appearances, having netted just one in his first 27 in the competition.
There have been four penalties in Leeds’ two Premier League games this season; the most in a team’s first two games in a single campaign since Bolton in 2002-03 (also four).
Since the start of last season, Mitrovic has scored more league goals than any other player in the top four tiers of English football.
Leeds have secured back-to-back league victories against Fulham for the first time since December 2003.
In the past 31 Premier League matches between two newly promoted clubs, the away side has managed to win just twice – both of which came at relegated Norwich last season.
This was the first Premier League fixture at Elland Road since a 3-3 draw against Charlton in May 2004.
Leeds have lost their opening match at Elland Road in only one of their previous 13 seasons in the Premier League, a 2-0 defeat by Sheffield Wednesday in August 1996.
Fulham have lost 16 of their past 20 Premier League matches.
They have only won their opening away match in two of their 27 top-flight seasons, against Portsmouth in 2009-10 and Sunderland in 2013-14.
It’s a Yorkshire derby next for Leeds as they travel to last season’s surprise package Sheffield United.
Fulham have back-to-back home games over the next nine days. Sheffield Wednesday visit to Craven Cottage in the third round of the League Cup in midweek before Aston Villa are the visitors a week on Monday (September 28).
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