ANALYSIS: Leeds United 1 Birmingham City 0 - Touch of nostalgia in Whites victory

United's Kalvin Phillips celebrates scoring the winning goal. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
United's Kalvin Phillips celebrates scoring the winning goal. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
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IT was nostalgia day at Elland Road as the great and the good descended upon Leeds United's home to celebrate the club's 100th birthday - at the end of a lavish and eventful week.

Unfortunately, on the first-half evidence, it was more like Groundhog Day, as Leeds - as has been their wont this season - painted some arty pictures in possession, but failed to find the killer touch and sting in the final third.

In the event, it was fitting that a lifelong Leeds fan and no-nonsense Yorkshireman took matters into his own hands in Kalvin Phillips to emphatically settle the issue in authoritative fashion on 65 minutes in a tense 1-0 victory for Leeds.

Jude Bellingham's pass sold Maxime Collin short, with Jack Harrison seizing on the loose ball before teeing up the man who Leeds supporters refer to as the 'Yorkshire Pirlo' and he blasted home confidently before an explosion of joy with his people among a season-best gate of 35,731.

A deserved win for Leeds, no doubt, even if they did make overly hard work of it.

The range of passing from those in white jerseys was a delight to watch at times, no moreso than a raking cross-field pass from the eye-catching Gjanni Alioski which was worth the admission money alone in the first period.

Birmingham were moved around the pitch and put under significant pressure for sizeable spells of the first-half, but when a cross was fired in the direction of their back five, a Blues head or boot was invariably on the end of it.

Leeds stroked the ball around with customary aplomb, but it was not matched by their proficiency and sure-fire traits in the business zone.

A decent early effort from Alioski was blocked unconvincingly by Lee Camp, suggesting the Blues veteran keeper might present a window of opportunity to the hosts.

But other than grasp a low shot from Stuart Dallas, Camp had nothing of note to field for the rest of the first half.

Bamford fired wide on the angle before a fine block from Maxime Collin got in the way of Helder Costa's goalbound effort ahead of Dallas's chance.

Marcelo Bielsa had clearly seen enough and called for Nketiah at the interval, a highly popular decision among home patrons.

Leeds dominance of the ball continued on the restart, with Alioski thumping a free-kick wide after Nketiah was brought down right on the edge of the box by Harlee Dean.

At the other end, a warning of sorts arrived when Fran Villalba's audacious curler from distance was not too far off target, a reminder that for all the hosts' efforts, the game was stilll in the melting pot.

Encouraged by United's lack of a breakthrough, Birmingham started to show a tad more ambition going forward and a dangerous situation also created a clear sight of goal for Alvaro Giminez, but he prevaricated and Ben White made a fine saving tackle.

Frustration started to creep into the home crowd before the balm arrived courtesy of Phillips' emphatic finish.

Leeds went for the jugular with Harrison's effort screwing just wide before Kiko Casilla was forced into his first real save to beat away Bellingham's piledriver before the Spaniard made a routine save to thwart Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Alioski soon spurned a golden chance to seal it, firing over with the goal at his mercy and despite late pressure form Blues, the points belonged to the hosts.

REACTION

Bielsa said: “It was a really important match for us to win.

“I am not happy with how we closed the game out. After we scored we could have finished the match and we gave them the ball and let them control the chances.

“We have one of the best first halves we have played. We started the second half with some doubt and after the goal we had three chances to finish the match and from then little by little we allowed the opponent to control the ball.

“When they have the ball they will have chances to score.

“Sometimes God put things in the right place. Phillips is playing at Leeds and now he will stay in the history of the club for this goal.

“We were very focused on the match. The team showed that throughout the match in every moment.

“It was difficult for us to score in the first half, but it was a great performance.

“I am proud to have this job at a club with such important history. The history of the club is very impressive and that increases the duty I have.”