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    Five-star Leeds close in on Premier League return

    London (AFP) – Leeds United moved to the brink of a return to the Premier League after 16 years as Marcelo Bielsa’s men thrashed Stoke 5-0 on Thursday to plunge the Potters ever closer to the Championship relegation zone.

    At the top of the table, Leeds moved back one-point ahead of West Brom and opened up a six-point cushion over third-placed Brentford with just four games of the season remaining.

    Stoke’s first half resistence at Elland Road was ended by Tommy Smith’s rash challenge on Helder Costa and Mateusz Klich coolly converted from the penalty spot to open the floodgates.

    Leeds went 2-0 up early in the second half when Stuart Dallas picked out Costa in the box and the Portuguese converted from close range.

    Skipper Liam Cooper scored the third just before the hour mark and Pablo Hernandez smashed home in style 18 minutes from time.

    Patrick Bamford wrapped up a dominant display in stoppage time as Leeds showed no signs of the end-of-season nerves that have derailed previous promotion bids.

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    Stoke on the other hand could find themselves in the third tier next season just two years on from their relegation from the Premier League.

    Michael O’Neill’s men are just one point above the bottom three with just two points separating Hull in 22nd from Middlesbrough in 18th.

    Those at the bottom could be handed a lifeline, though, as a 12-point penalty for Wigan for going into administration would drop the Latics from 15th to second bottom.

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