Leeds United 1 Southampton 0: Junior Firpo stars as Leeds move out of relegation zone with massive win

LEEDS UNITED were holding out for a hero and they gloriously got an unlikely one in Junior Firpo.

In this attritional, low-quality scrap, the one key moment came from Leeds and there was a redemption song for Firpo.

The left-back has done it tough for the majority of his time in West Yorkshire, it’s fair to say.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He saw his name in lights 13 minutes from time and soon after, much of Elland Road belted out his name. Funny old game.

Junior Firpo celebrates his huge goal for Leeds United. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.Junior Firpo celebrates his huge goal for Leeds United. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Junior Firpo celebrates his huge goal for Leeds United. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Cute work from replacement Crysencio Summerville, who made a difference when Javi Gracia made a big call to bring him on for Wilfried Gnonto and then Jack Harrison saw Firpo bear down on goal.

His low shot took a slight deflection off Dan Bednarek and went in and the Kop and Elland Road erupted en route to United’s first league win in 11 matches since Bonfire Night. And breathe.

It was just reward against a hugely unambitious Saints side. Leeds lacked flow and wit and gumption for spells, but did enough. They are out of the relegation zone and Southampton prop up the rest.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After the no-show at Everton, Leeds settled for just one change with Brenden Aaronson called for in place of Summerville, who dropped to the bench, while Max Wober started despite coming off at the interval with a shoulder issue at Goodison Park.

Gracia quietly entered the stage with little fuss and it was a half in which he saw Leeds gorge on a fair bit of possession and have the better of it against modest opponents who contained one quality player in James Ward-Prowse, someone plainly on a different level to many of his team-mates.

Leeds intent was there and there was a handy axis down the left between Gnonto and Firpo and the recalled Aaronson showed energy and tenacity, but they painfully lacked that final telling moment of quality, the important bit.

Leeds got in promising situations, with Gnonto looking like he had the beating of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and had a few half-decent chances, but they could not cash in.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Pressure arrived in the build-up to the interval and opportunities saw Aaronson’s goalbound header hit his own team-mate in Jack Harrison after good play down the left involving Gnonto and Firpo, while Weston McKennie hooked the ball over after a weak punch from Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu.

A moment which summed up United at the minute also saw McKennie and Aaronson momentarily clear, but the latter dallied and the covering Romain Perraud got a touch and Bednarek completed the clear-up operation.

Aaronson had steered an earlier effort wide, while Luke Ayling blazed over from a tight angle. But they did not force Bazunu into serious work.

At the other end, keeping out a standard curler from Onuachu constituted Ilian Meslier’s only work although Stuart Armstrong did spurn a decent opportunity after Ward-Prowse’s probing pass caught out Ayling.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Leeds needed to be sharper and more incisive in their work, with Southampton adding to their frustration with delaying tactics to stymie the hosts’ flow when the opportunity arose, with several of their players - Bella-Kotchap in particular - going down at regular intervals when challenged.

That theme continued on the restart, with referee Bankes unmoved when Bednarek challenged Patrick Bamford, who soon saw a shot comfortably gathered by Bazunu while under pressure from Bella-Kotchap.

Like the first half, Leeds had most of the ball and applied any pressure going. But Southampton were happy to sit it out and frustrate and the scoreline was their friend.

The clock ticked down as Leeds got more and more desperate and the home punters increasingly agitated, understandably.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At the other end, Saints created nothing, even if Firpo had to be alert after substitute Theo Walcott threatened to pull the trigger.

Leeds had to persevere and the big opportunity almost came for another replacement in Summerville after tidy work by McKennie and Aaronson, but Kyle Walker-Peters produced a fine saving block.

The moment that Leeds hankered for then brought the house down. Gnonto was booked for excessive celebrations, despite coming off the pitch earlier. His emotions were understandable.

Summerville nearly fired in a late second. But one was enough.