Head coach Thomas Christiansen was delighted with Leeds United’s second half improvement after seeing Kemar Roofe hit a hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Queens Park Rangers.
After a goalless first half that hosts Rangers edged United upped their game to create several openings that led to Roofe netting his second treble of the season.
Ironically all the goals came following Roofe’s switch to a central striker role after Caleb Ekuban limped off with what could be a recurrence of the foot injury that saw him miss so much of the season already.
With Pierre-Michel Lasogga again unavailable Leeds were left short of striker options and only had Pawel Cibicki as a forward player on the bench. However, he came on to impress Christiansen in a wide role following Ekuban’s 38th minute exit with his Championship debut going much better than previous appearances in the Carabao Cup.
The Leeds boss was impressed with all his players in the second half and believed they were good value for their away win, which closed the gap on the play-offs places.
He said: “In the first half we were not good but in the second we were better and it was important to score the first goal.
“The whole defensive line was much better. We’ve had five games now where we have defended better and believe we’re stronger.
“They came under pressure and we defended well, because it was difficult with QPR’s direct play with Matt Smith up front. It was a tough test for the defence.
“We have had five very good performances and I’m very pleased with the team, the performance and of course the result.
“We are very happy, it was a must win game, but also very difficult. The team lost here 3-0 last year, so we know it is a good and an important three points that we have taken. We deserved to win.”
Christiansen continued: “QPR drew their last home game 2-2 by scoring in extra-time, so I was worried when we conceded late on.
“However we managed to close the game out, by scoring a third goal which is very satisfying.
“It is great for Kemar’s confidence that he managed to score a hat-trick, it is good, but of course it is down to the performance of the whole team that he managed to score the three goals.”
On Cibicki’s display, Christiansen added: “Over the Christmas period we have many difficult games, without many days to rest, so everyone will have to be ready, because there will be changes for sure. There was one today with Pawel, he came in and did perfect.
“He came out and made a very good impression and this is a lesson to everyone, that when the players get an opportunity, they have to take it, which Pawel did.”
Leeds were able to win despite a horrendous howler by goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald, which gifted Rangers their goal.
But the German did make some sort of amends moments later when he was quick off his line to deny Idrissa Sylla in injury-time.
United’s side showed one change from the team that drew with Aston Villa, Roofe coming in initially on the wing in place of the injured Pablo Hernandez, who had not recovered as expected from the week before.
They started well enough with Roofe sending a dangerous cross over early on that had to be saved by home keeper Alex Smithies.
But as the first half wore on chances became few and far between, although there was a penalty shout as Roofe ran on to a great ball on the volley from Samuel Saiz, but was unable to get past Jake Bidwell who appeared to tug his shirt while also getting a toe to the ball.
Before going off Ekuban had one sniff of goal, heading over from Luke Ayling’s near post cross.
At the other end Ayling did well to block Matt Smith’s effort close to goal while Luke Freeman sent a shot over following the best move of the half.
The action hotted up after the break. Josh Scowen sent an effort well wide and Bidwell headed wide for the hosts from Freeman’s free-kick. Cibicki got a shot on target only to see his effort comfortably saved by Smithies.
Leeds went ahead when Ezgjan Alioski’s pinpoint left wing cross was met by the head of Roofe and Smithies was given no chance.
Rangers almost hit back straight away as Massimo Luongo went close with a header from Bidwell’s cross, but Saiz saw a shot from the edge of the box saved by Smithies and seconds later it was 2-0 as Roofe struck again, this time from a well delivered lower cross from Cibicki on the right.
QPR were given a lifeline in the 90th minute when a corner was only cleared as far as full-back Pawel Wszolek and he lifted the ball back into the box. There appeared to be no danger, but Wiedwald completely misjudged the bounce and despite his desperate attempts he could not prevent the ball from going over the line.
However, Wiedwald’s alert save at the feet of Sylla prevented another home goal and United made sure of the points with Roofe’s third goal in the fourth minute of injury-time as he took Saiz’s pass and cut in from the left to send a deflected effort into the net.
Queens Park Rangers 1
Leeds United 3
(Roofe 63, 68, 90+4)
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Sky Bet Championship
QPR: Smithies, Wszolek, Onuoha, Robinson, Bidwell (Sylla 71), Luongo, Chair (Osayi-Samuel 33), Freeman, Scowen (Hall 78), Washington, Smith.
Leeds: Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi, Phillips, Vieira (Pennington 80), Alioski (O’Kane 70), Saiz, Roofe, Ekuban (Cibicki 38).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.