Fulham 1 Leeds United 2

LEEDS United go into the international break eyeing a top ten Premiership position.

Their 2-1 victory at Fulham finally broke the club’s London hoodoo and lifted the Whites into 11th place with 39 points.

It was Leeds’s first win in the capital in 17 games in all competitions, with the previous success being a 3-1 triumph at QPR in December 2017.

Their points tally is probably already enough to dispel any fears of an immediate return to the Championship but coach Marcelo Bielsa won’t say so until it is mathematically secured.

The club have hovered in mid-table for some weeks now, gaining victories just when they were needed to avoid slipping towards the lower reaches of the table.

Friday night’s win at Craven Cottage was a case in point. Victory for Fulham could have added a bit of pressure on United given the difficult run of fixtures they face in mid-April.

Leeds went into the game with only one win in six while Scott Parker’s Fulham had been having a bit of a revival but goals by Patrick Bamford and Raphinha delivered the points for the Yorkshire side.

Despite some hairy moments in defence it was a strong display by Leeds who squeezed the life out of Fulham with their relentless harrying. The home side’s players seemed to panic in possession when Leeds got in their faces – a point not lost on Parker.

“The better team won,” he said. “We couldn’t cope with their intensity at times.”

Leeds set off like a steam train, winning the ball and forcing Fulham back but it looked like the curse of the capital would strike again when VAR ruled out Luke Ayling’s early header by the finest of margins – adding to the disallowed efforts at Crystal Palace and West Ham.

Just before the half-hour the visitors got their reward when Bamford, who just missed out on an England call-up earlier in the week, converted Jack Harrison’s cross.

Although Leeds were the better side, the defence had some wobbly moments on the few occasions Fulham got forward, Illan Meslier saving brilliantly from Josh Maja before Leeds scored.

United’s lead lasted nine minutes as Fulham exposed the Whites’ vulnerability at corners, Joachin Andersen out-muscling Ayling to knock a first-time shot past Meslier. That sparked some life in Fulham and Meslier had to be sharp on a couple of occasions to prevent a game that had been in Leeds’ control slipping through their fingers.

Sensing United’s struggles in the air, Parker sent on Aleksandar Mitrovic, a regular scorer against Leeds, but the Serb struggled to make an impact as the Whites improved defensively after the break.

The winning goal on 58 minutes followed a missed chance by Fulham’s Ademola Lookman. Within seconds the excellent Kalvin Phillips won possession, moved the ball on to Bamford whose pass released Raphinha, the Brazilian poking the ball past goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Fulham huffed and puffed after that but it was Leeds who looked more likely to add a third goal as they completed a league double over Fulham for the first time since 1984-85 in the second tier, last doing so in the top flight in 1967-68.

Bielsa said: “In the first half, up until they scored their equaliser, we were controlling well. After they equalised there was a segment of confusion from us. The second half was a half with very few fluctuations in the performance.

“We defended very well and after they needed to come back into the game, it was easier for us to attack.

“I think our team has improved in a lot of aspects. Improvement in the way they compete. How we manage different parts of the game. Throughout the campaign the players have adapted and absorbed and gained the level needed to play in this league. Like all the teams who are yet to be consolidated, there has been highs and lows.”

Fulham: Areola, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson, Aina (Tete 72), Lemina, Anguissa, Reed (Loftus-Cheek 63), Cavaleiro, Lookman, Maja (Mitrovic HT). Subs (not used): Fabri, Hector, Odoi, Ream, Bryan, Kongolo. Cautions: Lemina, Loftus-Cheek

Leeds United: Meslier, Ayling, Struijk, Llorente, Alioski, Phillips, Dallas, Roberts (KocH 93), Raphinha, Harrison, Bamford (Klich 77). Subs (not used): Casilla, Poveda, Costa, Berardi, Gelhardt, Shackleton, Jenkins. Cautions: Bamford, Phillips

Ref: David Coote