3rd November, 2023, EFL Championship.
Another terrific performance from Leeds last night brought a sensational result that few of us expected though all of us hoped for. If Leicester is the best the Championship has, as is widely believed amongst fans and pundits alike, then we can now I think conclude that, at our best, we are every bit as good if not better than the runaway top two in the division.
It was a pretty special night in all regards, including a lovely pre-match rendition of The Last Post and a thoughtful gesture by Leicester to include red and white posters for every fan in the stadium, both Leeds and Leicester, to hold up to create a fabulous living poppy display around the stadium. OK, maybe offering Leeds fans the material for paper planes and missiles was not a great idea in retrospect but it was all taken in good spirits by the local constabulary.
There wasn’t much to choose between the sides in a close fought first half with the Leeds high press clearly causing Leicester some difficulty in getting the ball away from their own half and hence why in an evenly fought game, Leicester bossed the possession; they had the ball for lots of time but could do precious little with it as they constantly had a White shirt in their faces. Chances were few and far between with Joel Piroe putting a great opportunity wide of the left post when he really should have at least hit the target and, at the other end, the lively Ghana international Fatawu did superbly to create Leicester's best first-half chance; the 19-year-old skipping past Sam Byram on the right wing before cutting in and curling a powerful left-footed effort that crashed off the bar with Illan Meslier clearly well beaten. It was the only real concern for Leeds in the first half, that Fatawu did seem to have the measure of Sam Byram who had a torrid time trying to cope. Leeds had a couple of half-decent penalty shouts too with both Rutter and Summerville seemingly brought down; it does seem that the bar is much higher in the Championship to win a penalty.
In the second half Sam Byram looked far more assured, possibly due to Crysencio Summerville working much harder to get back and support down that Leeds left hand side. Leicester were just about ready to up their game by bringing on Iheanacho for a very anonymous Jamie Vardy when Leeds got the all-important goal.
It was a formula that has worked for us before this season, a right wing corner swung in perfectly by Dan James and a late run from Sam Byram to power a header at goal. This time the keeper managed to somehow block the header on the line but Georginio was alive to the possibility and he followed up to ram the ball home from a yard or two out. It was no more than Leeds deserved.
Leicester then did make that substitution but, to be honest, Leicester continued to struggle; loads of the ball but only slowly going back and forth while Piroe and Rutter in particular chased and chased to make sure they did nothing with it.
There was the inevitable late surge from the home side with Joe Rodon having to block Iheanacho's late effort from inside the box and then finally the Foxes got their first and only attempt on goal with only seconds remaining in the game. Illan Meslier, a mere bystander for much of the game, pulled off an incredible one-handed save in the fifth minute of stoppage time to somehow claw Dewsbury-Hall's back-post header from under the left angle.
Leeds made the usual changes late in the game with, first, Bamford and Gruev replacing the exhausted looking Rutter and Piroe and then Willy Gnonto, Luke Ayling and Jaidon Anthony all got little cameo appearances for Summerville, James and Archie Gray. Perhaps another slight concern for Leeds at the moment is that none of the substitutes really looked as good as the players they replaced so that, as good as the squad looks on paper, our best XI is clearly head and shoulders above the rest; it looks vital that we can keep them all fit and we saw the drop off in quality recently in that Stoke game. Having said that, players coming on late in the game with a one goal lead have a slightly different objective and Willy Gnonto in particular fulfilled the brief perfectly with some clever defending and Ilia Gruev put himself about and helped break up the Leicester momentum.
It was a hard fought but first class display from Leeds all round with Rodon and Struijk almost foot and head-perfect at the back, Archie Gray sublime again and Summerville and Rutter as clever as always. For once, Leeds came up with the goods when they needed to most, so often at times like this in the past we’ve seen us fluff our lines but this looks like a very professional outfit capable of standing toe to toe with the best this Championship can offer. The key now is to back up this win with similar displays against the next three opponents and to ensure that Plymouth and Rotherham don’t turn into another Stoke City.
Sky Bet Championship
Leicester City 0
Leeds United 1 (Georginio 58)
Leicester: Hermansen, Justin, Vestergaard, Faes, Pereira, Casadei (Choudhury 67), Winks, Dewsbury-Hall, Mavididi, Fatawu, Vardy (Iheanacho 59). Subs not used: Stolarczyk, Souttar, Coady, McAteer, Albrighton, Marcal, Daka.
Leeds: Meslier, Gray (Ayling 90+4), Rodon, Struijk, Byram, Ampadu, Kamara, James (Anthony 90+4), Summerville (Gnonto 90), Piroe (Gruev 84), Rutter (Bamford 84). Subs not used: Firpo, Cooper, Poveda, Darlow.
Booked: Byram (Leeds),
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Venue: King Power Stadium