THE self-proclaimed King is dead, long live the King.
Eddie Nketiah, on his Elland Road bow, last night became the new darling of Leeds United supporters after netting a dramatic winner to ruin former hero Pontus Jansson’s first return since joining Brentford in the summer.
The teenager had only been on the field for four minutes and had, at most, four touches when his big moment came.
Helder Costa, another substitute thrown into the fray by Marcelo Bielsa in an attempt to spark Leeds into life, created the opening with a dart down the right flank that just about kept Ethan Pinnock at bay as the former Barnsley defender snapped at his heels.
A rolled pass across the face of goal then cleverly took Jansson and goalkeeper David Raya out of the game to allow Nketiah to swoop and cement his new-found hero status.
For Jansson, a hugely popular figure among supporters during three years with United, defeat was harsh.
Jansson, a hugely popular figure among supporters during three years with United, defeat was harsh. Up to Nketiah making the breakthrough eight minutes from time, the Swede had offered a reminder as to why he had been named in last season’s PFA Championship team of the year.Richard Sutcliffe
Up to Nketiah making the breakthrough eight minutes from time, the Swede had offered a reminder as to why he had been named in last season’s PFA Championship team of the year.
Every cross or high ball that came the way of the Brentford captain was dealt with in typically imperious fashion, while his sense of anticipation when danger appeared remains very much in working order.
Pinnock and Julian Jeanvier had proved equally adept at repelling the home side until that late devastating link-up between the two substitutes.
Nketiah’s first Championship goal meant Jansson was left with a similar sinking feeling to his last visit to Elland Road in May.
That came as a Leeds player on the night Derby County extinguished any hopes of the Yorkshire club ending their long absence from the Premier League.
Jansson’s reaction was to sit alone, his back to the advertising hoarding in front of the East Stand, as the rest of his crestfallen team-mates disappeared down the tunnel.
It is understood this act was seen by some in the Leeds camp as a craven attempt to make the night about himself despite not having got off the bench as the Rams triumphed 4-2.
Whether this played a part in Jansson’s subsequent exit for a cut-price £5.5m fee is something only Bielsa and his staff can say with any assurance.
But the return of the once-popular defender put the spotlight firmly on Ben White, his replacement in the United back-line.
It was a test the Brighton & Hove Albion loanee passed with flying colours as he and Liam Cooper kept a lively Brighton attack largely at bay.
Thomas Frank’s side had come closest to breaking the deadlock in an error-ridden first half when Bryan Mbeumo fired a shot against Kiko Casilla’s post.
Jeanvier also should have done better just before the interval when Jensen’s free-kick evaded Patrick Bamford and found the defender, who could only divert the ball straight at Casilla from close range.
Cooper did have one worrying moment late on when substitute Josh Dasilva looked to have gained a yard on him but the United captain wrestled his way back on to the ball before clearing.
Leeds’ two best openings of the opening 45 minutes had both fallen to Bamford but his two headers missed the target.
The hosts were much better after the break, taking the attacking sting out of the Bees.
Nevertheless, until Nketiah’s introduction from the bench along with Costa, it looked like being a frustrating night for the hosts.
Pablo Hernandez had been way below his best, as had Jack Harrison on the left flank. Kalvin Phillips, too, was unable to influence proceedings as much as has become the norm for the man dubbed “Yorkshire’s (Andrea) Pirlo” by adoring supporters.
There had been a huge shout for handball just after the hour, Mateusz Klich’s shot being deflected behind by Jeanvier for a corner.
Leeds were adamant an arm had been used. Stuart Dallas, in fact, was so incensed that he earned a yellow card after confronting referee Andy Davies, with the 35,004 crowd looking likely to be frustrated.
Then, though, came the arrival of Costa and Nketiah to huge cheers. The Arsenal loanee had an immediate chance but Raya saved after the sting had been taken out of the shot by a team-mate’s leg.
Nketiah, however would not be denied a second time as he sent Elland Road wild by tapping in from close range to ensure an unhappy return for Jansson.
Leeds United: Casilla; Dallas (Berardi 78), White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Hernandez (Nketiah 77), Forshaw, Klich, Harrison (Costa 65); Bamford. Unused substitutes: Meslier, McCalmont, Bogusz, Shackleton.
Brentford: Raya; Jeanvier, Pinnock (Marcondes 89), Jansson; Dalsgaard, Norgaard, Jensen, Henry; Canos (Benrahma 78), Watkins, Mbeumo (Dasilva 67). Unused substitutes: Daniels, Thompson, Forss, Racic.
Referee: A Davies (Lancashire).