England injury scare for Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips

An injury to Kalvin Phillips was the only blot at the end of a season which had even Marcelo Bielsa satisfied, but the Leeds United coach is hopeful it will not ruin the midfielder’s summer.

Having scored a brilliant first-half free-kick, Phillips had a bad end to the 3-1 win, his poor touch allowing Hal Robson-Kanu to core a 90th-minute consolation goal before a poor tackle on Grady Diangana brought a yellow card and a shoulder injury.

Phillips did not come out for the post-match lap of honour and England manager Gareth Southgate will be keen for an update before naming his England squad for the European Championships tomorrow. The Leeds-born midfielder dislocated his shoulder earlier in what has been his first season at international level.

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“I haven’t received any information about the gravity of it,” said Bielsa after the game.

Rodrigo scores Leeds United's opening goal in front of the Elland Road supporters. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“We all hope it’s something that can be resolved quickly.

“Knowing the fortitude of Kalvin I know he has the resources to recover quickly.”

Phillips has been a regular in Southgate’s squads this season, playing as a holding midfielder or slightly advanced of that, and it seems certain that if fit he will be selected for the European Championships. England’s opening game is against Croatia on June 13, although they have two warm-up matches at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium first.

One player who has definitely been ruled out is Burnley’s Nick Pope Pope had been in line to be second-choice goalkeeper but it was revealed yesterday that minor surgery will stop him taking his place in the squad.

Jordan Henderson has not played since February with a groin injury but after naming him as an unused substitute yesterday, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said his captain would be “fine” if selected by England.

Phillips apart, it was a very positive final day for Leeds. Everton’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City allowed them to finish the season ninth, the highest by a newly-promoted Premier League team in 20 years.

It was the first Elland Road game attended by fans since March 7, 2020. Eight thousand were able to say their goodbyes to Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi, making their final Leeds appearances, and to celebrate everything that has happened at the club since they have been away.

“I thought it was an unforgettable game,” said Bielsa. “It was a great homage to two players that stopped belonging to Leeds. The responses that they got, only players who give a lot deserve it.

“The performance of Pablo indicated he deserved more minutes than the ones I gave him this season.”

For Leeds to finish in the top half of the table is a massive achievement for a club that had been out of the top division with all the financial advantages that brings, since 2004. Even a coach as demanding as Bielsa was happy with that, although he could still point to ways in which it could have been better still.

“On one hand I’m very satisfied with what the team achieved but on the other hand I feel like we could have added a few more points,” reflected the Argentinian.

“If we divided the competition in two, in the second part of the season we conceded 50 per cent fewer goals than in the first part. Had we had that security defensively throughout the whole campaign we could have added those points I would have liked this season.

“But I’m satisfied with what we achieved. It is very difficult to win games in the Premier League, very difficult, and on the other side I felt like we could have had a few more points.”

Summer signing Diego Llorente made a big difference once he was finally able to start games in February, but the improvement started at Christmas, after the 6-2 defeat at Manchester United.

At that point the Whites had conceded 30 goals in their first 14 Premier League games. It was 24 in as many matches afterwards.

As is the norm at the end of every season, Leeds must now wait to see if Bielsa will sign a new contract. He is stubbornly refusing to show his hand, but it seems very unlikely he will walk away.

“I can’t imagine I will ever receive more than I have from Leeds and everything Leeds offers to a manager exceeds the expectations of those who have this job,” he said.

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