It may not have been the prettiest of wins under Marcelo Bielsa, but Leeds got the job done against Barnsley on Thursday.
The Whites took another huge step towards clinching automatic promotion back to the Premier League thanks to the 1-0 win, and with the attackers struggling to really get going, it was up to the back-line to make sure the fort was held down.
And in a real captain’s performance, Liam Cooper stood firm as the away side threatened to throw a spanner in the works, producing an absolute masterclass in defending.
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As per Sofascore, he made two tackles, two interceptions, four clearances and blocked one shot, and marshaled the back-line with supreme confidence.
And in those individual battles, the 6 foot 2 ace didn’t look fazed at all. In the 15 total duels that he contested, Cooper won an impressive 13 of them, including ten out of 12 in the air.
At a time when the race for automatic promotion is neck-and-neck between the Championship’s top three sides in Leeds, West Brom and Brentford, Marcelo Bielsa needs players to rise up to the challenge and not crumble under the pressure.
Cooper’s performance against Barnsley was of a man who had nothing but a clean sheet in mind, and led by example from the back. He looked cool, calm and composed, and whenever there was a 50/50 to be won, or a tackle to be made, he looked as dominant as ever.
Ben White may be the talk of the town, what with Leeds hoping to get a permanent deal done for the defender, but Cooper showed that Bielsa already has one colossus at his disposal too.