Everton 0 Leeds United 1

VICTOR Orta’s role as Director of Football has not always been appreciated by Leeds United fans.

He’s divided opinion since arriving at Leeds United in 2017 alongside chairman Andrea Radrizzani and chief executive Angus Kinnear, overseeing plenty of signings from marquee arrivals to young talent to bolster the Under-23s.

Not all of the recruitment, particularly in the first year, has been successful, but getting the Whites to sign Raphinha from French side Rennes for £17 could turn into an astute piece of business.

The Brazilian earned free-flowing Leeds a deserved victory at Everton and coach Marcelo Bielsa acknowledged Orta’s part in the bringing the matchwinner to Elland Rad.

Bielsa said: “Raphinha has adapted very quickly to the Premier League. Victor anticipated he had the characteristics to play in the Premier League. He was correct in choosing him.

“It was a victory which was very difficult to achieve. I think we played well.”

It’s taken Raphinha a couple of months to get his fitness levels up to the warp-speed demanded by Bielsa but he was all power and pace in this, only his second start in United’s colours.

He scored the only goal of yet another full-gas display by Leeds in the 79th minute of a thrilling Goodison Park encounter.

United smartly worked the ball out of a tight spot on the right to Raphinha who was lurking in a central position 20 yards from goal. The Brazilian initially looked to find a pass, but with the Everton defence momentarily failing to close him down he arrowed an accurate low shot through the legs of Alex Godfrey into the bottom corner of Jordan Pickford’s goal.

That earned Leeds their first win in four games after both sides blew a stack of chances. Everton had enough opportunities to fill Bielsa’s famous blue bucket but the visitors missed an absolute skip-load, particularly in the first half when Jack Harrison could have had a hat-trick.

The on-loan Manchester City man slid an early golden opportunity wide, headed against a post and had an effort cleared off the line by former York City man Godfrey.

Both Harrison and Raphinha dominated makeshift wing-backs Tom Davies and Alex Iwobi as Leeds piled forward and drew fine saves from Pickford, the best denying a header from the dangerous Raphinha.

With Stuart Dallas keeping close tabs on James Rodringuez, Everton were second best but the Colombian still posed a threat with his set-piece delivery and Carlo Ancelotti’s side fashioned chances themselves, but could not beat Illan Meslier, who denied Richarlison, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure.

United were able to keep the Premiership’s top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin in check as they managed to record a successive clean sheet after the goalless home draw with Arsenal.

It is no coincidence that improvement has dovetailed with the return of defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips. Watched by on-looking England manager Gareth Southgate, he was the best player on the pitch at Goodison Park, breaking up home attacks and springing Leeds forward with his wide range of passing.

While Leeds players were rotating at speed in all directions, Phillips was in a bubble on his own, calmly directing operations. He’s the base on which United build and it was a major surprise that Everton didn’t shut him down in the same way Dallas was able to neutralise Rodriguez.

Phillips and Leeds will expect a stiffer test on Saturday when Bielsa and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea renew battle at Stamford Bridge (8pm).

Everton: Pickford, Godfrey, Keane, Holgate (Bernard 82), Davies (Delph 61), Doucoure, Allan, Iwobi (Andre Gomes 67), Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs (not used): Sigurdsson, Mina, Tosun, Lossl. Caution: Allan

Leeds United: Meslier, Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas, Phillips, Raphinha (Poveda 85), Klich, Harrison (Helder Costa 89), Alioski, Bamford (Rodrigo 90+1). Subs (not used): Casilla, Roberts, Struijk, Davis. Cautions: Ayling, Cooper.

Ref: Chris Kavanagh. Att: Behind closed doors