Leeds United 2 – 1 Nottingham Forest
Leeds United 2 – 1 Nottingham Forest. Leeds secured a huge victory in their quest to remain in the Premier League as goals from Jack Harrison and Luis Sinisterra saw them come from behind to beat relegation rivals Nottingham Forest and move out of the bottom three.
In a tense but largely one-sided ‘six-pointer’ at Elland Road, Orel Mangala gave the visitors the lead with just their fifth away goal of the season – a neat low finish from the edge of the box after a ruthless counter.
But Leeds responded in style, with Harrison following up to fire in after Keylor Navas could only limply palm Marc Roca’s shot from range.
After near-relentless Leeds pressure, Luis Sinisterra seized his moment in first-half injury time, cutting inside from the left and onto his right foot for a superb curled finish into the bottom corner.
It took Javi Gracia’s side to 29 points and up to 13th – far from out the woods yet, but with renewed confidence and a strengthened platform on which to build.
Defeat for Forest plunged them further into trouble and ramped up the pressure on boss Steve Cooper. They are now winless in eight games and above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
With another relegation-threatened side in Crystal Palace visiting Elland Road on Sunday, this was always going to be a defining week for Leeds’ season.
Their fixture list is heavily loaded with less appetising opponents in May – on paper at least – and so it was felt they must make hay in this month’s five games.
This was a fine start and continued the impressive work done by Gracia since he succeeded Jesse Marsch as manager in February. He has now taken 10 points from his six games in charge.
The Spaniard is something of a chameleon in his managerial approach, adapting his tactics to the surroundings.
Having set up Leeds to contain and counter-attack without a recognised striker at Arsenal on Saturday, he unleashed more of his attacking arsenal here – understandably looking to take the game to a rival who had earned just six points on the road this season, scoring only four goals in the process.
Patrick Bamford started and proved a menace with his clever running and stubborn hold-up play. He could have scored a couple himself, pulling one glaring chance wide after a defensive mix-up.
But it was Harrison and Sinisterra either side of him who were the real stars. The close control and dribbling skills of both gave Forest all manner of trouble. They too could have added more goals to make it far more comfortable in the closing stretch for the hosts.
Behind them, Roca was superb in midfield with both his disruption of Forest and his distribution to get the home side on the front foot.
The victory, regardless of the scoreline, was fully deserved.
Forest came into the game off the back of seven winless league games, their last victory coming at home to Leeds two months ago – a result that ultimately cost Marsch his job as Whites boss.
If rumours are to be believed, this return fixture could cost another manager his job, with Cooper at risk in the face of some seriously faltering form.
That Forest win over Leeds at the City Ground left them 13th, six points above the bottom three on 24 points. Yet they have earned only three points since.
They had the perfect platform here to ease their plight, courtesy of Mangala’s fine 12th-minute finish – a goal coming after an opening in which they had looked slick on the break.
But having taken the lead, they retreated into their shell and it cost them.
They threw on every creative and attacking player from the bench and fed off Leeds’ anxiety in a tense finale, but never properly tested Illan Meslier.
source – BBC