Leeds United 1 Norwich City 0: Possession counts for nothing as Whites get the job done... just

Some modern football coaches are obsessed with possession but Leeds United and Norwich City were both better off without it.

It meant that Leeds managed to get the job done with a 1-0 win that crept them up on the Championship's top three, their fans still had to endure a frustrating evening.

For 45 minutes, the Whites had comfortable control of the game without working the goalkeeper anywhere near enough and then in the second half they swapped roles with the Canaries.

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Leeds were far more dangerous on the counter-attack than on the front foot, although crucially Patrick Bamford did add another goal to his red hot start to 2024 when his team was in the ascendant.

HEAD BOY: Patrick Bamford heads Leeds United in front against Norwich CityHEAD BOY: Patrick Bamford heads Leeds United in front against Norwich City
HEAD BOY: Patrick Bamford heads Leeds United in front against Norwich City

Bamford was both the reason Leeds United won, and the reason they did not win more comfortably.

The in-form striker scored a towering header and missed three chances – one far too audacious to criticise and two he perhaps out to have taken.

Leeds exerted a growing, calm control of the first half but very nearly ended it ruing not making more of it.

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When the ball came in from the right, Gabriel Sara met it on the half-volley yards out and put the last touch of the half wide of the post, then his head in his hands.

SHIELDING: Leeds United forward Crysencio SummervilleSHIELDING: Leeds United forward Crysencio Summerville
SHIELDING: Leeds United forward Crysencio Summerville

It would have been a bit of a burglary for Norwich to equalise at that point but if you do not take your chances, you will always be open to it.

Patrick Bamford took one, for his fourth goal in five games, but Leeds could not add to his 16th-minute strike.

His goal was the second chance that had come his way in a matter of seconds as Leeds got a foothold after quite an open start.

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That he attempted an overhead bicycle kick from the first showed his self-belief at the moment. For the second, he hung brilliantly in the air to head in a Dan James cross from deep.

SKILL: Leeds United full-back Archie Gray flicks the ball over Dimitris GiannoulisSKILL: Leeds United full-back Archie Gray flicks the ball over Dimitris Giannoulis
SKILL: Leeds United full-back Archie Gray flicks the ball over Dimitris Giannoulis

By now, Leeds were into their stride, pushing both full-backs forward at will with Ilia Gruev minding the shop behind them. Where Firpo tended to go on the outside, Archie Gray just as often headed down the inside-right channel and a lovely bit of skill to beat Dimitris Giannoulis at the byline when he went wide showed how much he was enjoying it.

Georginio Rutter, feet whirring, played with the same joi de vivre but the ferocious speed with which James closed down Angus Gunn, glancing over his shoulder to see a wave of reinforcements doing their best to keep up, showed a home side working hard as well as having a giggle.

Firpo produced an excellent interception to cut out a ball heading to Jonathan Rowe and Ethan Ampadu made a good block as Josh Sargent tried to bury the loose ball.

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Shortly after Rowe shot at Illan Meslier after exchanging passes with Sara but more of the play was down the other end, just not the shots. From 40 per cent of the ball, Norwich had more efforts on goal and as many – one – on target.

So Leeds would only have had themselves to blame had Sara been more clinical on the stroke of half-time shortly after Bamford put a header wide.

Leeds had to absorb a lot of pressure at the start of the second half, though like their hosts, Norwich were not so rude as to pepper Meslier with shots.

It was clear Elland Road wanted them to be more aggressive about winning the ball back and when Firpo, then Rutter were, Crysencio Summerville broke the one-way football by forcing a save.

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It quickly felt like a blip but when Leeds pressed again Bamford played in Jaidon Anthony ought to have taken. Under pressure and slightly off balance, the half-time substitute missed the target but it pointed to the way forward. Passive does not suit Leeds, especially at Elland Road.

The penny dropped and the chances began to flow, but so did the misses.

Bamford had a bad one by the standards he is setting right now when Firpo sent Summerville to the byline to pick him out.

Rutter produced more feints than girls' school summer outing to a Beatles concert only to shoot at the goalkeeper but made up for it with the fans by immediately chasing the ball down.

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Jack Stacey's attempt to control only gave the ball to Rutter and Summerville's curling shot forced a save and a corner. Gunn also denied Firpo after more fancy footwork by the No 10 and a lovely Glen Kamara turn.

Gray's brilliant 83rd-minute tackle on Adam Idah as Norwich counter-attacked at speed was a warning to anyone daft enough to think about leaving to think again.

In the end, with Leeds substitutes pouring on in stoppage time, they got over the line. Just. Just, though, was plenty, as the roars at full-time demonstrated.

Leeds United: Meslier; Gray (Byram 90+4), Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo; Gruev, Kamara (Cooper 90+5); James (Anthony HT), Rutter, Summerville (Joseph 90+6); Bamford.

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Unused substitutes: Klaesson, Piroe, Gelhardt, Shackleton, Poveda.

Norwich City: Gunn; Stacey, Duffy, Gibson, Giannoulis; McLean, Nunez; Rowe (Barnes 78), Sara, Sainz (Hernandez 58); Sargent (Idah 78).

Unused substitutes: Gibbs, Long, McCallum, Fassnacht, Sorensen, Fisher.

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester).

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