Noel Whelan has told BBC Radio Leeds (broadcast on 26/2; 22:10) that Liam Cooper was brilliant in Leeds United’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men have returned to being five points clear of the chasing pack in the Championship. Mateusz Klich found the back of the net just before the break.
Leeds came under plenty of pressure. But Whoscored.com shows that Boro managed to put just two attempts on target throughout the game. And that was largely down to an excellent defensive display from the visitors – five of the home side’s attempts were blocked.
Cooper produced a colossal display at the heart of the back four. And Whelan could not praise the skipper high enough following the victory.
“Brilliant. Absolute leader. Captain’s performance. Solid as a rock,” he told BBC Radio Leeds. “He’s really stepped up his game this season. I was impressed last year. But this season he’s really coming into his own and I’m sure he’ll be getting more international caps as well.”
Cooper has been remarkable in recent weeks. His goal against Brentford has acted as a catalyst for Leeds’s recent upturn in form. And he has led from the front since then.
Whoscored.com shows that he won six aerial duels against Boro – more than double the number of any other player on the pitch. He also made four successful tackles.
Leeds have not conceded a goal in more than three and a half games. And it is fair to say that the defence can take no blame for the last time Casilla was beaten.
In that time, Cooper has played alongside Ben White, Luke Ayling and Gaetano Berardi. Of course, he is no stranger to playing alongside any of them. But he deserves enormous praise for adapting so well.
Several stepped up at a time when Leeds desperately needed to turn their fortunes around. But perhaps no player has done more to drag the Whites back on track than the captain.