Departing St Mary’s a matchwinner on Saturday, Armando Broja might have reflected on just how quickly he had turned things around.
In the build up to Leeds’ trip to Southampton, Ralph Hasenhuttl appeared to pour cold water on any suggestion the Chelsea loanee would be handed a first Premier League start: “He’s a very good sub. I don’t know if he is immediately ready for 90 minutes from the beginning.”
Just a couple of days later, the 20-year-old rewarded his manager for a change of heart, scoring the only goal of the game after making the starting XI to give dominant Southampton a deserved first Premier League win.
Broja was a menace throughout the 81 minutes he spent on the pitch before cramp set in and ended his presence. With the ever-industrious Nathan Redmond dropping into pockets of space, he was able to sit high on the Leeds defence, driving at opposition players whenever invited.
Having taken his biggest chance with aplomb, firing into the roof of the net from eight yards to finish a Redmond-led Southampton counter-attack after 53 minutes, he will expect to retain a starting spot in a side still searching to replace summer departee Danny Ings and struggling with a lack of goals this campaign.
“I've been dreaming of this moment since I was three years old,” said Broja. It is a dream come true.”
The Berkshire-born Albanian has also scored in three of his four international substitute appearances this season and will come up against the country of his birth in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley next month.
Outplayed and fortunate not to lose by more, Leeds will hope to welcome Raphinha, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford back next weekend against Wolves. The trio’s absence exposed some worrying frailties in Marcelo Bielsa’s thin squad.
Match report: Southampton outplay Leeds to secure first win of season
Finally, 53 minutes into their fourth Premier League home game, the Southampton fans erupted to a goal scored by one of their own; a goal that secured a first victory of the season.
For a worryingly long time against a lacklustre Leeds side, it looked as though the hosts were incapable of adding to the fortunate deflection off Manchester United’s Fred that had provided Southampton’s solitary St Mary’s goal this campaign.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team had been rampant in a first period that saw Illan Meslier’s goal peppered and Southampton supporters’ hands repeatedly thrust onto heads in distress.
Then it arrived. A rapid counter-attack unleashed the ever-industrious Nathan Redmond behind the Leeds back line, from where he could draw the lone covering defender and square to Armando Broja with ease. On his first Premier League start, the Berkshire-born, Albanian youngster could not miss from eight yards.
“We had a lot of good chances,” said Hasenhuttl. “It was a special game for the way we played. Finally a very deserved win because they had nearly no chances and we had a few very good ones. We only scored once but I think the game was good.”
Hasenhuttl had predicted “an intense fight” beforehand but it proved nothing of the sort, with his side pummeling the visitors while for so long suffering an inability to land a knockout blow.
By half-time, the shot tally already read 12-1 in Southampton’s favour, although their best chance would not even have counted towards the total. Around 20 minutes had gone when St Mary’s was left in disbelief after Mohamed Elyounoussi, totally unmarked at the far post and with the net gaping, failed to make contact no more than two yards from goal.
It was indicative of the home side’s problems. Broja headed wide, Redmond repeatedly tried his luck from range having found dangerous pockets of space, and even centre-back Mohammed Salisu felt sufficiently emboldened to have a crack from 30 yards. All went unrewarded.
Hasenhuttl has offered some stern words about Chelsea loanee Broja this season, describing him as “a little bit of a slow starter” and “not invested enough in the game” after a poor outing in the EFL Cup.
He seized his chance here though, taking his goal with aplomb and proving a menace the longer the match went on. Not even the absence of their talismanic captain James Ward-Prowse - missing through suspension after a run of 102 consecutive Premier League appearances - was an issue.
There was little for Marcelo Bielsa to cheer in his 150th game in charge of Leeds. Shorn of three of his most important players in Raphinha, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, his side were outplayed for almost the entire 90 minutes.
They managed just three efforts all game, although could have grabbed a share of the spoils had Daniel James hit the target after outmuscling Salisu to win the ball and earn a clear sight of goal inside the Southampton penalty area with just over 20 minutes remaining.
“It was a fair result,” said Bielsa. “We didn’t play well in any moment in the game. The difference was produced in the first half. It justified their win even if they scored in the second half.”