Early Winner: Jack Harrison stars for patched-up Leeds United

Jack Harrison scored a hat-trick as a seriously patched-up Leeds United team beat West Ham to alleviate concerns that they might still be involved in a relegation battle.


It took three seasons on loan for Leeds United to finally secure the permanent signing of Jack Harrison, but the £11m that they paid for him to finally prise him from Manchester City looked like particularly good value, after Harrison plundered a hat-trick and Leeds United won 3-2 at West Ham United at the end of one of the most entertaining games of the Premier League season, so far.

Harrison’s hat-trick probably couldn’t have at a better time for either the player or the club. With the North London Derby between Spurs & Arsenal having fallen foul of the Gunners’ injury crisis, this was the sole Premier League match being shown on the television in this country, and Harrison’s moment in the spotlight won’t be subsumed by a landslide of comment on a later and higher profile match.

But this result couldn’t have come at a much better time for Leeds United, either. Last year ended harshly for Leeds, with consecutive matches against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal which ended in three defeats and fourteen goals conceded. 2021 has started somewhat more successfully for Leeds, with two straight wins in the Premier League to put a little buffer between themselves and the teams below them in the table. The gap between them and third from bottom Norwich City is now nine points. It now seems pretty unlikely that Leeds will get dragged back into that particular fight again, unless they become extremely complacent in their remaining fixtures.

Hat-trick hero! @Harrison_Jack11 pic.twitter.com/Ts6WVlQ00y

— Leeds United (@LUFC) January 16, 2022

The result was also something of a vindication for the concept of just getting on with it. With no Covid casualties to use to get the match postponed, Bielsa and Leeds just ploughed on, despite having nine players out injured at the moment and losing a further two by the time they’d been playing for half an hour at The London Stadium. By that time they were already a goal up, the West Ham defence choosing an inopportune moment for a game of sleeping lions inside their own penalty area as Klich’s shot was beaten out by Fabianski, only for Forshaw to tee the ball up for Harrison to sweep it in at the second attempt.

West Ham levelled, but their parity only lasted for three minutes before Leeds restored their lead, a header across goal from a corner bundled over the line at the far post by Harrison. There was a moment’s silence, a Pavlovian pause as the stadium held its breath in anticipation of a whistle going for something, anything, but it didn’t come. Harrison had been onside, and the ball had bounced over the line off his hip, rather than anything that could be explained away as a potential handball. Leeds led 2-1 at half-time.

West Ham levelled again early in the second half, but their team selection was also patchwork by nature, and with an hour played Rapinha clipped the ball through to send Harrison away to lift the ball over Lukasz Fabianski and give Leeds the lead for the third time in the match. There were points when it fels almost inevitable that West Ham would score, most notably when the otherwise very impressive (and bang in form) Jarrod Bowen chested a rebound over from close range, a piece of somewhat strange decision making, when a connection betwee the ball and just about any other part of his body would surely have resulted in another West Ham equaliser.

Leeds United supporters will be feeling very proud of the rag-tag assortment of players they sent down to West Ham. There was no arguing, no attempting to get the match called off, no implementation of the dark arts and no accusing anyone else of doing so. They had been dealt an exceptionally bad hand by fate, but they sent the best team they could and just… got on with it. Every time West Ham found a way back into the match, Leeds came back at them and scored again. It was bloody-minded and brilliant, signs of the spirit under Bielsa which got them into the Premier League in the first place and then saw them impress throughout the whole of last season.

And at the middle of it all was Jack Harrison. He wasn’t the only Leeds player to sparkle in this match – there should also be honorable mentions for Rapinha, Stuart Dallas and Pascal Struijk, at the very least – but he had the anticipation and intelligence to be one step ahead of a stretched West Ham defence and the a cool head when it was needed to give Leeds the win they needed. It was a win borne of an obstinacy that bordered on bloody-mindedness. more than a hint of the spirit that got Leeds to this position in the first place.


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