Birmingham City 1 Leeds United 3: Chris Wood’s double sees Leeds continue push at the top

An admiring Kalvin Phillips leaps into the arms of goalscorer Chris Wood to celebrate the strikers 25th goal of the season for Leeds United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
An admiring Kalvin Phillips leaps into the arms of goalscorer Chris Wood to celebrate the strikers 25th goal of the season for Leeds United (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
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GOALS win games they say and Leeds United have now had 25 this season from Chris Wood.

Two more arrived for the in-form striker at Birmingham City last night as Leeds United survived a Blues onslaught to eventually emerge comfortable victors at St Andrew’s.

As Leeds’s head coach Garry Monk served a one-match touchline ban for his recent spat with counterpart David Wagner in the derby-day loss at Huddersfield Town, Monk’s Spanish assistant Pep Clotet led United from the sidelines.

And it was Clotet’s Spanish compatriot Alfonso Pedraza who ultimately ended Birmingham’s resistance when firing home his first goal for the club in the 81st minute.

The victory propelled Leeds 11 points clear of seventh-placed Fulham, who United will visit with a healthy cushion on Tuesday evening.

After a bright start by Birmingham, Leeds hit the Blues with a sucker punch in the 14th minute when a long ball from Luke Ayling found Wood, who superbly lobbed Tomasz Kuszczak from just inside the penalty box.

Birmingham’s Robert Tesche was then denied a stunning equaliser when his volley hit the crossbar, but Birmingham finally gained parity four minutes after the hour through an equally impressive strike by Craig Gardner.

However, Leeds hit back and regained the lead just three minutes later when substitute Kalvin Phillips laid on a perfect pass for Wood to slam home his second of the game.

Leeds finally ended Birmingham’s resistance in the 81st minute when Pablo Hernandez laid on an inviting pass for substitute Pedraza to slam home his first goal for the club since arriving on loan from Villarreal.

Leeds had the game’s first attempt on goal after just 45 seconds when the recalled Stuart Dallas let fly form range, but Kuszczak showed safe hands.

Birmingham began to exercise a degree of control and after David Davis had hit the side netting from a tight angle, Pontus Jansson was forced to head an excellent cross from Emilio Nurse narrowly over his own crossbar.

United survived claims for a Blues penalty when Davis went sprawling after a challenge by Luke Ayling, and minutes later Rob Green produced a fine save to tip away a low shot from Che Adams.

From the resultant corner Leeds countered through a long ball from Ayling that completely baffled the Birmingham defence and allowed Wood to produce a brilliant lob over Kuszczak from just inside the box.

Birmingham produced a strong response and Davis should have done better when lashing a low shot wide in the 21st minute.

After Jansson produced a crucial header to keep out Davis, Leeds desperately scrambled away a Blues corner that looked destined to lead to a goal.

Souleymane Doukara drove a left-footed effort just wide for Leeds before a free-kick from Craig Gardner sailed narrowly over Green’s crossbar.

Gardner then blazed another wayward effort wide before another vital header by Jansson blunted another Blues attack.

United should have doubled their lead just two minutes later when Dallas latched onto a loose ball in the Birmingham penalty box, but powered a rising effort over the bar.

Wood then lashed an ambitious effort just over before Leeds survived moments later when a corner was cleared out to Birmingham’s Robert Tesche whose stunning volley from 25 yards thumped the crossbar.

Leeds began the second half with purpose, but Wood saw a low shot blocked before Gardner fired well wide for the hosts.

The pattern of Birmingham dominance soon continued and after Kyle Bartley hacked an Adams header off the line, Tesche fired just over from six yards out.

Green produced another fine stop to keep out Adams before Eunan O’Kane was replaced by Kalvin Phillips just short of the hour mark.

Birmingham continued to bomb forward and finally bagged the goal they richly deserved in the 63rd minute when Gardner’s low shot from long range took a deflection and beat Green to nestle into the bottom left corner.

But amazingly United regained the lead just four minutes later when Doukara played in Phillip,s who squared a perfect pass for Wood. He needed no second invitation to slam the ball into the net from close in.

For the second time in the game, Birmingham were left stunned and this time the response was not as impressive.

Leeds should have gone 3-1 up in the 79th minute when a fairly quiet Pablo Hernandez saw his low shot saved.

But Hernandez atoned two minutes later when laying on an inviting pass for advancing substitute Perdraza who produced a fine low finish to finally put Birmingham to bed in the 81st minute.

The Blues were left flattened and had just one more chance through Adams, who fired wide, but Wood almost had the final say when seeing a low shot saved by Kuszczak in pursuit of his hat-trick.

Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi, Bridcutt, O’Kane (Phillips 58), Dallas (Pedraza 72), Hernandez (Roofe 82), Doukara, Wood. Unused substitutes: Silvestri, Cooper, Barrow, Sacko.

Birmingham City: Kuszczak, Nsue, Dacres-Cogley, Shotton, Robinson, Keita (Frei 83), Kieftenbeld (Jutkiewicz 62), Tesche, Davis, Gardner, Adams. Unused substitutes: Legzdins, Grounds, Gleeson, Bielik, Sinclair.

Referee: Christopher Kavanagh (Lancs).