When it was confirmed that Leeds United would be playing Derby County in the play-offs earlier this month, their supporters had every right to be bullish about their chances of progressing to the final of the competition.
Having defeated the Rams twice in the regular season, the Whites entered the two-legged clash as overwhelming favourites and looked almost certain to set up a showdown with Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium following their 1-0 victory at Pride Park last Saturday.
Yet with expectations high ahead of the return fixture on Wednesday, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were unable to deal with the pressure and imploded at Elland Road.
Despite the Whites taking the lead via a Stuart Dallas strike, a defensive mix up between Liam Cooper and Kiko Casilla allowed Jack Marriott to tap in on the stroke of half-time before Mason Mount levelled the tie on aggregate in the 46th minute.
With Leeds visibly shook by their opponents’ fightback, things went from bad to worse for Bielsa’s men as they conceded a third from the penalty spot.
Although Dallas would cut his side’s deficit by firing his second of the game, Gaetano Berardi’s rash challenge on Bradley Johnson resulted in the Whites having to play the final 12 minutes of the game with ten men.
Outnumbered in defence, it was of little surprise when Marriott fired in the decisive goal to send Frank Lampard’s side to Wembley and thus consign Leeds to another season in the Championship.
On what was a harrowing night in West Yorkshire for the Whites, Pablo Hernandez’s failure to deliver played a major role in their downfall.
Anonymous for most of the clash, when the Spaniard did receive the ball he looked a shadow of the player who had managed to score 12 goals and provide 12 assists during the 2018/19 campaign.
With his under-par performance not going unnoticed by the Elland Road faithful, loads of Leeds fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment with Hernandez.
pablo hernandez’s end product is atrocious
— Jamie Lynch (@Jamielynch_1) 15 May 2019
I genuinely think Pablo is burnt out, he’s 34 and probably is running on empty.
— Ollie Mulkeen (@OllieTrumpet) 16 May 2019
Who is this pablo hernandez and what have you done with the real one?
— Jamie Farnell (@J_Farnell) 15 May 2019
Tell you what ..pablo Hernandez loves to hide in big games doesn’t he
— Az (@arron_far) 15 May 2019
When it’s time to be counted pablo Hernandez has been missing since Easter #LUFC
— gary (@gpaint74) 15 May 2019
— Liam Hawkins (@hawkinoheat) 15 May 2019
— Connor Mahoney Bielsalona! MOT (@ConnorMOT92) 16 May 2019
I can only assume that some sort of football version of Space Jam has happened to Pablo Hernandez over the last few weeks.
— Gareth Keaveney (@GKeaveney) 11 May 2019