A five-star performance to begin the new season.
Premier League 2 Division 2
Derby County 2 (Aghatise 53’, 55’)
Leeds United 5 (Joseph 12’, 24, 28’ pen, 69’, Perkins 61’)
Derby: Evans (GK), Brailsford (Bates 84’), Kelly-Caprani (Hawkins 84’), Robinson, Rooney (C), Grewal-Pollard, Lo-Everton (Torraj 79’), Ibrahim, Nunn, Aghatise, Mema (Richards 64’). Subs not used: Barnes.
Leeds: Ombang (GK), Moore, Carole, Mullen, Debayo, Jenkins (Coleman 68’), Perkins (Miller 79’), Gyabi (Allen 61’), Joseph, Gray (McGurk 61’), James. Subs not used: Brook.
Venue: Pride Park
Referee: E. Swallow
Booked: Debayo (Leeds) Brailsford (Derby)
Michael Skubala oversaw his first game in charge of Leeds United Under-21s on Friday evening, away against Derby County Under-21s in the Premier League 2 Division 2.
The newly-appointed U21s head coach will have been pleased with what he saw from his side, who ran out comfortable winners despite a second half fightback from the hosts.
Mateo Joseph showed a lethal touch in front of goal to score four times, including a hat-trick inside 28 minutes during the first half, with Sonny Perkins also finding the back of the net in his first game for the club.
Summer arrivals Darko Gyabi and Perkins started the match, with Dan James taking the captain’s armband for the evening as the winger is suspended for one more game at first team level.
The season opener was played at Pride Park, with both teams looking to get their campaign off to a winning start under the lights in the East Midlands and on the front foot early on were the Whites, who established the lead.
Leeds did most of the early attacking but nearly went behind when George Nunn spotted an opportunity to try and lob Darryl Ombang from 45-yards or so out. Fortunately for the away side, his effort drifted narrowly behind for a goal-kick.
From then on, it was all Leeds and they raced into an 11th minute advantage. Clever play from Jack Jenkins, Gyabi and James created an opening for Joseph who superbly controlled and finished into the bottom corner to open the scoring for himself and his side!
Perkins was lively and after more neat link-up play, he cut inside on his left-foot and forced Harry Evans into a good save between the posts for the home side.
One became two midway through the half, and it was Joseph again. An in-swinging corner allowed Jeremiah Mullen to create himself a chance, but his left-footed effort was saved, allowing Joseph to head home the rebound for his second.
Just four minutes after the second goal for Skubala’s rampant side, they then made it three. Archie Gray tricked his way into the box before being tripped and winning a penalty. Only one player was going to take it, and Joseph stepped up to complete an impressive hat-trick.
There was a further chance at either end before the interval, as Nunn again went close to finding the net for Derby but saw his header go wide, whilst Joseph nearly grabbed his fourth but shot just over the bar.
An excellent opening 45 minutes of the season was brought to a close with Leeds three goals ahead at Pride Park.
HALF TIME: Derby County 0-3 Leeds United
Despite Leeds coming out on the front foot at the start of the second half and creating early chances, it would be the home side who found their way back into the match.
Ola Ibrahim created the first of the night for his side by getting down the wing wing and crossing into the box, where Osazee Aghatise managed to slide the ball home to bring his side within two.
Just two minutes after and in a similar spell to what Leeds had managed to produce in the first half, Derby then found another. This time it was a direct free-kick as Aghatise found the net again, firing low into the bottom corner.
However, Skubala’s side hit back and restored their two goal advantage quickly. Perkins raced forward from midfield and played the ball wide for Gray, who chipped back into the box for Perkins, who was well placed to fire home his first for the club and United’s fourth!
Sean McGurk and Charlie Allen were brought on off the bench and they contributed immediately, as the Whites pushed forward and scored a fifth of the evening, courtesy of a clever set-play.
McGurk’s pinpoint cross from a free-kick to the back post found Kris Moore, who placed a header back across goal for the ever-willing Joseph, who made no mistake from close range to score his fourth of the night!
Both teams tried to continue attacking in the final few minutes of the match but the scoring was done in what had been an entertaining season-opener throughout at Pride Park, ending with a more-than-deserved three points for Leeds.
Next up for the Whites is a return to home turf, where they will face Norwich City at Thorp Arch on Monday 15th August, with a kick-off time of 1pm. You can see a full list of upcoming fixtures by clicking here.
FULL TIME: Derby County 2-5 Leeds United