Illan Meslier shines in absence of Kiko Casilla as Leeds march on

Illan Meslier shines in absence of Kiko Casilla as Leeds thump Hull to make it four straight wins and move within a point of leaders West Brom… but Marcelo Bielsa is still fretting

  • Illan Meslier showed Leeds have a more than able goalkeeping deputy option
  • Meslier was given a rare start after eight-match ban handed to Kiko Casilla
  • Leeds produced one of their best displays of the season at the KCOM Stadium

Leeds United’s rivals can’t rely on an enforced change of goalkeeper to stop Marcelo Bielsa’s march to the Premier League.

With Kiko Casilla banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Charlton striker Jonathan Leko, rookie Illan Meslier coolly took the gloves at the KCOM Stadium and dominated his area like a seasoned pro.

The Frenchman, on loan from Lorient, turns 20 today. Hull manager Grant McCann admitted he had wanted his players to exploit his inexperience. They couldn’t.

Illan Meslier proved himself to be a more than able deputy in the absence of Kiko Casilla

The goalkeeper dominated his penalty area as Leeds thrashed Hull City 4-0 on Saturday

‘We were aware Leeds had a young goalkeeper but it’s very easy to say, ‘Put balls on top of him’. The game doesn’t always go the way you think,’ McCann said.

‘There were a couple of times when the ball came into the box and he was very confident and caught it. He’s a very good goalkeeper. That’s why he’s there.’

The birthday boy himself tweeted: ‘Very happy to have played my first minutes in the Championship, with a win and my first clean sheet!’

Leeds have now won four consecutive games without conceding to move within a point of leaders West Brom and consolidate their automatic promotion prospects, five clear of third. ‘I think Leeds are a Premier League team,’ McCann said. ‘They are excellent.’

Despite the win and Leeds’ fine form, Marcelo Bielsa admitted he’s far from relaxed

Despite the handsome victory, earned by goals from Luke Ayling, Pablo Hernandez and two by substitute Tyler Roberts, Bielsa, 64, admits he’s too much of a fretter to start enjoying it.

‘I thought at my age I’d be more relaxed regarding consequences. But the opposite has happened. I am very worried about what is going to happen,’ he said.

‘I always analyse. I feel harm if something is not right.’

The Argentine has one big decision to make before another Yorkshire derby next weekend against Huddersfield, after Roberts replaced first-choice striker Patrick Bamford and scored twice in 23 minutes. That is as many as Bamford has managed so far this year.

Tyler Roberts pressed home his case for regular starts after scoring twice in 23 minutes

‘I was eager to get on the pitch and wanted to get in as many areas to try to get goals,’ Roberts, 21.

Hull, meanwhile, are in freefall towards the relegation zone, having failed to win since selling Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki in January.

McCann has vowed to come out fighting, though. ‘I’ve told the boys if they feel sorry for themselves, come and see me and get yourself back home or play for the Under 23s,’ he said.

‘That won’t be an issue for this group. They hurt after the game but it doesn’t last long.’

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