By Noel Whelan

28th Sep, 2021 | 7:00pm

Pundit hails Leeds powerhouse and can't believe he was 'knocking Antonio off the ball'

Noel Whelan has lavished praise on Leeds United debutant Charlie Cresswell after his valiant performance in Saturday’s home loss against West Ham.

The former Whites striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, lauded the 19-year-old’s physical and aerial performance against Michail Antonio.

The defender’s ball-playing skills were also impressive, with the youngster enjoying the most touches and successful passes during the league clash (WhoScored).

Leeds were fired into a first-half lead by Raphinha but were pegged back on 67 minutes following an own goal by Junior Firpo.

West Ham then grabbed a dramatic winner in the dying moments when Michail Antonio showed his class to slot past Illan Meslier.

Cresswell had been on the bench for Leeds’ previous four Premier League matches but was thrust into the spotlight on Saturday following a swathe of defensive injuries.

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Whelan raved about the performance of the youngster, insisting he “ticked all the boxes”.

“I thought he was absolutely immense,” he told Football Insider‘s Ewan Kingsbury.

“For a player making his Premier League debut in a tough game against Michail Antonio, I felt he handled himself incredibly well.

“He didn’t look out of place one bit. He was very dominant in the air, good positionally and great communication between him and Liam Cooper.

“Physicality wise he held his own against Antonio – at times he was knocking him off the ball.

“He ticked all the boxes, and he’s done himself a world of good.

“Everybody was really impressed about how he stood out at the back.”

Cresswell also starred in last week’s penalties win over Fulham in the League Cup.

The youngster’s contract at Elland Road runs until 2025 after he penned an extension last month.

In other news, Leeds United player tipped to snub mega-money contract offer.