Javi Gracia explains what made him proud of Leeds United players in their crucial win over Nottingham Forest
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After results went against them over the weekend the Whites went into their latest Elland Road game back in the bottom three, but ended the evening as high as 13th after a 2-1 success that came courtesy of goals from Jack Harrison and the back on song Luis Sinisterra.
"I'm very pleased because the performance was really good and we got a good result," said Gracia.
"I think we should have killed the game before the end. We didn't do it and we had to suffer, but the performance was good.
“The reaction of the team was perfect and I am really proud.
"I am very, very proud with the attitude of the team defending. We conceded some chances, but it was not easy to defend this team.
“I've seen many games and I know how difficult it is to stay well organised throughout the game and we did it in a crucial game in the best moment for us.
"We've made an important step and now I'm thinking about the next.”
Gracia had words of praise for several of the players in an outstanding display that should have brought a bigger margin victory, but stressed that it had been a team performance.
He added: "Luis and Harrison both had outstanding games, but not only these two players.
“Speaking about all of them, my opinion is the same. The defenders did an amazing job because at the time we were attacking they were all the time paying attention, pressing in defence, controlling the (opposition) players.
"You know how difficult it is to keep concentration all the way through the game, but it was the key to the game. We were focused when we had to defend.”
Forest made the better start with their counter attacking style catching Leeds out in the early stages after some careless passing was presenting them with the ball.
After the visitors forced a corner Leeds could not clear and Emmanuel Dennis hit the post with a snap shot.
It was 1-0 to Forest on 12 minutes when Dennis pulled the back from the left and Orel Mangala came forward from midfield to make space nicely to send a low shot into the corner of the net.
It was looking ominous at this stage, but United gradually stepped up their game and amazingly the visitors were not to have another shot on target in the rest of the game.
Luke Ayling fired the first warning shot for the hosts with a first time shot that flew well wide and they were level on 20 minutes as Marc Roca's well struck 25-yard shot was only parried by keeper Keilor Navas and Harrison pounced to score from the rebound.
Clear chances were hard to come by with a Robin Koch volley going well wide and a Patrick Bamford turn and shot being deflected wide, but United were consistently getting into some good positions even if their final ball left something to be desired.
They did, however, find a second goal right at the end of the half as Sinisterra showed good skill to cut in from his left wing before firing a low shot into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box.
The second half saw Leeds pile on the pressure at times, but they were wasteful again after creating openings.
Junior Firpo found himself free down the left, but his cross was far too close to Navas when Patrick Bamford was unmarked and free in the area. Harrison was next to find joy down the left as he burst onto the ball only to hit his shot wide.
Sinisterra met a Brenden Aaronson free-kick, but his header was straight at Navas.
The Colombian winger then produced another party piece and looked set to repeat his first half heroics with another great run and shot only to see the ball flash inches past.
Bamford found himself unexpectedly free in the box when two Forest defenders collided going for the same ball, but he opted for an instant shot when he he could have taken the ball closer and dragged his effort wide.
More half chances came and went before Forest exerted some late pressure with their changed tactics of long balls and long throws.
They finally managed more efforts on goal, but the closest they came to an equaliser was a Jonjo Shelvey volley that deflected wide off a teammate.
(Harrison 20, Sinisterra 45)
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Struijk, Firpo; Roca, McKennie; Harrison, Sinisterra (Summerville 73); Aaronson (Rodrigo 73); Bamford.
Forest: Navas; Williams, Felipe, Niakhate, Toffolo; Freuler (Kouyate 64), Mangala (Shelvey 56), Danilo (Awoniyi 56); Johnson, Gibbs-White (Ayew 71), Dennis (Scarpa 71).
Referee: Robert Jones.