Leeds United 1 Birmingham City 2: Pointless Whites given the Elland Road Blues

Maikel Kiefftenbeld and Alex Mowatt challenge for the ball.
 PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Maikel Kiefftenbeld and Alex Mowatt challenge for the ball. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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LEEDS UNITED are still seeking their first point under new head coach Garry Monk after Birmingham City frustrated a packed crowd by recording a 2-1 success at Elland Road.

United attacked from the off but were undone by a clinical Birmingham counter-attack which resulted in Jacques Maghoma giving the Blues a 15th-minute lead.

Leeds continued to bomb forward and the Whites were rewarded after 27 minutes when Alex Mowatt fed Hadi Sacko whose shot squirmed through Tomasz Kuszczak to make it 1-1.

But Birmingham piled more misery on Leeds by capitalising on more soft defending to bag a 55th-minute winner through Michael Morrison from yet another move starting from a corner.

The defeat leaves Leeds second-bottom of the Championship ahead of Tuesday night’s home clash with Fulham.

Leeds lined up with a very attacking 4-4-2 formation with Ronaldo Vieira the only defensive midfielder and the Whites were immediately on the front foot.

Two lovely passes from Mowatt picked out first Sacko and then Marcus Antonsson through on goal with Sacko overrunning his chance and Antonsson denied by a fantastic tackle from Ryan Shotton whose intervention forced a corner.

And it was from a second corner soon after taken by Pablo Hernandez that Antonsson smashed a half volley against the crossbar.

An energetic Whites were dominating but there was always the fear that United could get caught out by a Blues counter attack and that is exactly what happened after 15 minutes.

United again looked threatening as an opening was worked to Mowatt on the edge of the area but the midfielder opted to turn inside rather than shoot and subsequently lost the ball.

Birmingham then came flooding forwards and Stephen Gleeson produced a fine through ball for Maghoma who chipped the ball past an onrushing Rob Green to give his side an early lead.

Leeds were soon back on the attack and Mowatt’s dinked pass narrowly failed to find Sacko in the area but United were fortunate not to go 2-0 down in the 26th minute when Vieira was dispossessed just outside of his own area and David Cotterill’s low shot was deflected just wide.

But just one minute later Leeds were level after another fabulous pass from Mowatt picked out Sacko who raced in on goal from a tight angle and opted to shoot rather than square.

Thankfully for United, ‘keeper Kusczak was rather weak in being unable to keep out the effort which squirmed under his body and into the back of the net in front of a delighted South Stand to make it 1-1.

Leeds continued to attack and a hugely impressive Mowatt was again integral to another flowing move on 34 minutes which ended with a long range volley from excelling debutante Luke Ayling being beaten away by Kuszczak.

At the other end, a marauding David Davis went close when firing just over and wide from 20 yards and that effort proved the final chance of an entertaining half.

There were no changes made during the interval and just two minutes after the restart Birmingham went close to taking the lead when Gleeson’s shot from the edge of the area whistled just wide of Green’s right hand post.

The Blues were causing problems with Pablo Hernandez twice losing the ball in dangerous areas and booked for pulling a shirt after the second loss of possession which led to a Birmingham free-kick on the edge of the area, conceded by Kyle Bartley.

The Blues went on to win a corner and it was from that 55th-minute set piece that City worked the ball to Jonathan Grounds whose cross caused mayhem in the United area and allowed Michael Morrison to smash the ball home into the roof of the net.

Whites head coach Monk reacted by bringing on Kemar Roofe for an ineffective Chris Wood whose withdrawal brought cheers from a frustrated Elland Road crowd.

Roofe immediately looked lively but United failed to fashion a clear-cut chance and Monk then brought on Kalvin Phillips for Mowatt who was noticeably running out of steam.

And it was Birmingham who created the next opportunity when a low shot on the turn from Clayton Donaldson was safely gathered by Green.

United then forced a series of corners nearing the 80th-minute, one of which resulted in a sliced clearance from Gleeson forcing Kuszczak into a reflex save.

Monk then made his final change by bringing on Stuart Dallas for Hernandez with just four minutes remaining and United squandered a fine chance two minutes later when the Blues defence misread a Roofe pass which let in Antonsson, but his shot from close range was smothered by Green.

At the other end, Morrison headed a reasonable opening just over as the contest neared the 90th minute before Leeds again pressed forward, with Roofe’s glancing header from an Ayling cross sailing wide in the second minute of seven minutes of added time.

But in truth it was Birmingham who finished with more momentum, with the Blues keeping the ball in United’s half for the final two minutes as the 900 visiting fans cheered every pass.

United’s fans meanwhile understandably greeted the full-time whistle with a chorus of boos.

Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Bamba, Bartley, Taylor, Vieira, Mowatt (Phillips 73), Hernandez (Dallas 86), Sacko, Antonsson, Wood (Roofe 60). Subs not used: Turnbull, Coyle, Cooper, Phillips, Grimes.

Birmingham City: Kuszczak, Spector, Morrison, Shotton, Grounds, Kieftenbeld, Cotterill, Gleeson (Robinson 90), Davis (Tesche 66), Maghoma, Donaldson. Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Fabbrini, Adams, Stewart, Storer.

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Attendance 27,392 (960 Birmingham).

*****

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