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Hernandez accepts Christmas gift to wrap up another Leeds United win

Pablo Hernandez celebrates his winning goal for Leeds Unted against Hull City. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Pablo Hernandez celebrates his winning goal for Leeds Unted against Hull City. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Pablo Hernandez gave Leeds United the Christmas present they were after as he scored the winning goal against Hull City that lifted the Whites back into the top six.

United were far from at their best in a game that did not match the excellent 35,156 attendance, but won 1-0 for the second week running with Spaniard Hernandez netting the only goal 29 minutes in.

It was a bit of a Christmas present when it came as the hitherto untroubled Hull keeper Allan McGregor’s poor clearance fell straight to Hernandez 35 yards from the goal. The Spaniard strode forward and promptly produced a delicious chip over the hapless stopper to send the ball into the net to the glee of the majority of fans inside Elland Road.

Leeds were sluggish for much of the match and could have been two or three down before they scored, although they controlled the second half well enough and in the end comfortably kept a second successive clean sheet.

Hull were sharper round the pitch and first to the loose balls in the opening quarter, their first shot coming in the opening minute when Kamil Grosicki’s volley was well saved by home keeper Felix Wiedwald.

Nouha Dicko forced another save out of Wiedwald on 11 minutes before Jon Toral’s low shot deflected off Pontus Jansson only to go just the wrong side of the post.

Leeds briefly looked dangerous when Luke Ayling put in a dangerous ball that McGregor got to just ahead of Kemar Roofe.

Ola Aina’s 30-yard shot was not far over while the Whites produced a good move down the left only for Kalvin Phillips to have his shot blocked.

Hernandez, who was playing the number 10 role in the absence of the injured Samuel Saiz, came up with his vital contribution just after, but United were still not fluent in attack and Hull could have levelled when Toral’s low shot from the edge of the box hit the post with Wiedwald beaten.

Just before half-time Dicko saw a shot blocked by Liam Cooper following a succession of defensive mistakes from Leeds, but the hosts also came close with their best move of the game with Alioski’s low shot saved by McGregor’s feet.

At the other end Grosicki’s low shot in a crowded box was saved comfortably by Wiedwald.

The second half was lacking in action for much of it with United more competitive round the field and substitute Eunan O’Kane adding more punch and urgency in the Whites midfield. They were still lacking in attack, however, and did not manage an effort on goal until the last five minutes.

Hull’s play lacked creativity as well, although they did fashion one chance when Kevin Stewart headed a free-kick over.

Stewart also sent a shot wide from distance, but Wiedwald did not have an effort to save after the break.

Late on Leeds had chances to seal their victory with Pawel Cibicki blasting a shot over following a superb run forward by Jansson and Pierre-Michael Lasogga seeing his shot from the edge of the box saved by McGregor as he came close to marking his return from injury with a goal.

But they were happy with the points, which have lifted them back into the play-off places at the half-way point of the Sky Bet Championship season.

Leeds head coach Thomas Christiansen admitted his side were not at their best and was relieved to see his team pick up the three points.

He said: “It was a very tough game. The first half we were not good enough.

“They put us under high pressure and I have to be honest we were lucky to take the three points.

“Felix kept us in the game in the first half with his saves. In the second half we did not have serious problems. We brought on Eunan O’Kane for Kalvin Phillips and when he came in he helped the team a lot and brought some pace into the game.

“The change was partly tactical and partly because Kalvin did not feel 100 per cent.”

On the absence of playmaker Samuel Saiz, the head coach reassured fans that he should not be out of action for long.

He added: “Samuel Saiz had a small problem in the calf and I did not want to risk him with a lot of games coming up. He should be fit for the Burton game.

“He is very important to the team. But Pablo (Hernandez) scored a beautiful goal.”

Match facts

Leeds United 1

(Hernandez 29)

Hull City 0

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sky Bet Championship

Attendance: 35,156

Leeds: Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi, Phillips (O’Kane 45), Vieira, Cibicki, Hernandez (Pennington 89), Alioski, Roofe (Lasogga 76).

Hull City: McGregor, Tomori, Dawson, Mazuch (Stewart 31), Aina, Hector, Larsson, Toral (Bowen 73), Irvine, Grosicki, Dicko (Henriksen).

Referee: Stephen Martin.