Leeds United boss Daniel Farke on importance of victory in 'complicated' game against Birmingham City
and live on Freeview channel 276
A 3-0 success against Birmingham City was never in doubt once Patrick Bamford – in his first start of the season – had headed them in front just past the half-hour mark and it lifted the Whites to within seven points of second-placed Ipswich Town.
Further goals from Dan James and top scorer Crysencio Summerville completed an in the end comprehensive victory to get United back on track in their promotion bid.
“It was very important, we wanted to return to winning ways,” said manager Farke.
“It was always a complicated game. Boxing Day we were in brilliant shape, had delivered the best performance of any team this season in the Championship, against Ipswich, but when you head into a fourth game in 10 days after back to back defeats it's always a bit complicated.
“I think you could feel it a bit in the first 20, we didn't move the ball quick enough. Then you need to dig in to open the game with a goal.
“We did it with brilliant play, good positioning, a perfect assist and a good header and then the confidence, rhythm and our process was back. We were all over them and didn't allow them to have chances.
"I was a bit concerned in the start of the second, so many good situations but at first didn't bury them with a third goal. Perhaps it was not perfect, we had one or two unnecessary losses of the ball and they had a big chance, but we had a big will to return with a clean sheet and for that many compliments to the lads.
"It was a very deserved win and good for the goal difference.
"We had very many setbacks and the lads responded very well. I was very pleased it was such a good performance.
“It was never an easy game and on personnel terms, number one and two goalkeepers not available – Kris Klaesson was brilliant. Struijk, the rock at the back not available. After 10 minutes Sam Byram not available. The last time Junior Firpo played 80 minutes on league level was before my regime. So definitely it's good for the mood and confidence.”
On Bamford scoring on his return to the starting line-up, Farke added: "Hopefully it will be a big goal because he has had a couple of difficult seasons.
“I am really happy and delighted for Patrick because he has had such a difficult time.
"Also this season, I think he had a really good pre-season and was on the edge to start the first home game of the season and then he had a long-term injury with eight weeks out.
"Considering his age and his injuries, it’s definitely taken him a bit longer to get back into normal shape. He was also unlucky as strikers need goals for confidence and he didn’t score in his many substitute appearances.
"There was a period when he lost bits of his belief and confidence. But I had a good feeling as in the last three weeks he has been really on it in training.
"I had a feeling that he deserved his chance. He repaid my trust back with a really solid and good performance and scored a crucial goal, which is priceless for the confidence of a striker.
"It was important and we need him in his best shape and more for his confidence, it was a pretty important day for Patrick and the whole group."
Leeds looked a bit sluggish early on, although they still created an early chance as a great run by Summerville ended up with a shot being blocked.
Georginio Rutter – who was outstanding in a slightly more withdrawn number 10 role – was next to have a shot blocked after being found in the box and then sent a long range shot wide.
Bamford saw an angled shot easily saved, but it was hard work at this point, made harder seemingly after Sam Byram had to go off injured, to be replaced by Junior Firpo.
Leeds gradually picked up the pace as Summerville raced into the area and saw his shot well saved by John Ruddy. From the rebound James then had his shot well blocked.
The opening goal arrived when James' cross was headed home by Bamford in an old fashioned sort of effort rarely seen at Elland Road these days.
With the Whites now dominant they fashioned another chance as Firpo set up James, but the Welsh international was off balance as he shot and it was easily dealt with by Ruddy.
In first half injury-time Leeds doubled their lead when Firpo got in behind the visitors' defence and pulled the ball back for James. His strike looked to be unlikely to trouble Ruddy, but a deflection off defender Lee Buchanan helped the ball find the back of the net.
Equally important was a first save of the day for third choice keeper Kris Klaesson, pressed into action after an injury for Karl Darlow and with first pick Illan Meslier suspended following his Boxing Day sending off.
Siriki Dembele did well to work space on the edge of the home box, but saw his shot well saved by Klaesson who otherwise had nothing to do in the whole of the first half.
The second half started in more open style with Rutter twisting and turning to find space for a shot he sent over and Juninho Bacuna shooting wide at the other end when through with just Klaesson to beat.
Liam Cooper saw his header from a corner comfortably saved before Ivan Sunjic sent a shot wide for Birmingham.
However, the hosts once again took charge and were unlucky when Bamford's strike from just outside the box came back off the post and James' follow-up shot was blocked by the head of defender Buchanan who knew little about his defensive save.
A minute later James sent a shot into the side netting then United put the game to bed with their third goal on 67 minutes.
Summerville came up with a calm finish for his 12th goal of the season after a perfect pull back by Firpo who had raced onto a delicious chip over the City defence by Rutter.
Leeds comfortably saw out the remainder to complete their victory and came within inches of another goal as revelation Firpo hit the post with a near post flick from a corner.
Ethan Ampadu also came within a whisker of his first goal for the club with a powerful shot that was tipped over by Ruddy.
(Bamford 34, James 45+1, Summerville 67)
Birmingham City 0
Monday, January 1, 2024
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Klaesson; Gray, Rodon, Cooper, Byram (Firpo 17); Ampadu, Kamara; James (Gnonto 74), Rutter (Poveda 85), Summerville (Anthony 74); Bamford (Piroe 74).
Birmingham: Ruddy; Aiwu, Sanderson, Buchanan; Burke, James (Gardner 62), Sunjic (Roberts 62), Longelo; Bacuna, Dembele, Stansfield.
Referee: Keith Stroud.