|Leeds United 2 v 0 Birmingham City|
Tuesday, 12th September 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Top Top Top Top Top of the League!
Wednesday, 13th Sep 2017 18:05 by Tim Whelan
We made hard work of breaking Birmingham City down last night, but eventually got the points we needed, with goals from Saiz and Dallas. Did I mention that this sent us top of the league?
There was only one change from Saturday’s starting line-up, with Alioski coming back and Roofe making way despite his excellent performance on Saturday. Thomas Christiansen explained in his pre-match interview that with such a talented squad at his disposal there will be times when he needs to leave players out even when they are doing well, and he will have to give players a rest when they need one. The game attracted a crowd of 31,507, which is far higher than usual for midweek, and we can thank Birmingham for bringing the 507.
Once again Leeds made a lively start to the game, but it was clear from the outset that Birmingham were not going to crumble in the way that Burton did on Saturday. Throughout the game they were far more disciplined in their defensive play, and worked hard to deny us space, while having a few moments of their own at the other end of the field. Morrison sent an early header just wide, and we needed an intervention from Jansson to keep Gallagher at bay, before a breakaway saw N'Doye having to block a Hernandez shot on the line.
It looked like it was going to take a while to break Birmingham down, but the opening goal arrived in the 17th minute. O’Kane played a good ball into the right side of the penalty area, and Lasogga managed to muscle a defender off the ball. Just as I thought he should square it to Saiz he hit a powerful shot from a narrow angle, which Stockdale was only able to parry. So it did get to Saiz after all, as the Spaniard was quickest to react and got to the ball ahead of two defenders, to force it home from close range.
But Birmingham refused to lie down, and Leeds struggled to get any sort of fluency going as we sought to add to our lead. Quite a few moves broke down through mis-placed passes, which might have been a sign of over-confidence creeping in after Saturday’s rout, or perhaps Harry had seen the video of that game and worked out how to counter the pace and movement we showed a few days before.
The visitors began to enjoy more of the possession as they sought an equaliser, with Jota looking impressive on their right hand side. Just before half-time we were indebted to Ayling’s quick reaction to preserve our lead, as Colin headed beyond Wiedwald, only for Ayling to race back and turn the ball round the post with a superbly timed lunge.
I hoped for an improvement after the break, but what we got was more of the same, so maybe Christiansen doesn’t do half-time bollockings. We had a great opportunity when Lasogga was put through by a mis-placed backpass, but I thought he was a bit slow to react and didn’t get to the ball until the keeper was almost on top of him. I started to wonder if he wasn’t quite match-fit, having been substituted after an hour on Saturday, or whether the imminent arrival of his new baby was keeping him awake at night.
This time it was Alioski’s turn to be replaced after 60 minutes. He hadn’t enjoyed the greatest of returns to the side, and it took him so long to trudge off the field I wondered if he’d picked up a knock. The next change was certainly down to injury. Liam Cooper tried to battle on after he first went down but plainly couldn’t continue. He was replaced by Beradi, with Ayling moving to central defence, but quite strangely Beradi played at left-back with Anita moving to the right.
The Blues were still in the game, and we were thankful that Gallagher fired wide after a quick free kick, but when Adams had the ball in the net in the 74th the whistle had already gone for offside. At the other end Saiz forced Stockdale into a fine save, but for the most part it started to look like we were hanging on to preserve our lead. We were in no hurry to take throw ins or free kicks and in the closing stages began to take the ball into the corner rather than try to exploit some promising opportunities in their half, even though there was likely to be a good bit of injury time to be played because of the number of stoppages (five minutes as it turned out).
Our third substitution had seen Dallas come on for Hernandez, and he finally made the game safe two minutes into time added on. He beat a couple of players as he twisted his way into the box, before sending a shot past Stockdale into the corner of the net. It wasn’t that fiercely struck and the Blues keeper seemed slightly flat-footed, but we weren’t going to care about that. Anita could have scored another right at the end with a deflected shot that bounced wide, but a 3-0 scoreline really would have flattered us. Birmingham will no doubt be frustrated to have got nothing from this game, and it was hard to believe they are below Burton in the table.
And the final whistle brought the news that Cardiff had lost quite handsomely at Preston, so we really were top top top top top of the league. It felt strangely unsatisfying to get there with this kind of performance, but undoubtedly I was spoilt after Saturday and had I seen a game like this in any of the umpteen previous seasons I would just have been very happy with the three points. What is it they say about teams who win when they haven’t played well?
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