HEAD coach Thomas Christiansen believes Leeds United deserved all three points from their New Year’s Day encounter with Nottingham Forest – but acknowledged his side failed to take a hatful of gilt-edged chances.
United squandered a host of opportunities against a Forest side under the care of interim manager Gary Brazil following the sacking of Mark Warburton on Sunday.
Forest would have been looking at a fourth defeat from their last six games had Leeds taken their chances, but Kemar Roofe smashed a vicious shot from inside the area against the crossbar before Pablo Hernandez and Pierre-Michel Lasogga also failed to beat Forest goalkeeper Jordan Smith late on.
An honest Christiansen conceded that United had already gained two points more than they should have done during a busy festive period when Pablo Hernandez’s sublime chip gave them a 1-0 win over Hull City at Elland Road on December 23.
But he felt his side deserved more yesterday, the draw with Forest seeing Leeds drop to sixth spot after Aston Villa thrashed Bristol City 5-0 in the evening kick-off.
“I believe that we deserved to take the three points,” said Christiansen, whose side sit one point above seventh-placed Sheffield United.
“We created big, very big, opportunities. We didn’t give them opportunities to come into the game or have chances.
“But this is football. We created the opportunities, deserved to win and did almost everything perfectly, but then we had a game like we had against Hull. We didn’t deserve to win that, but we scored and took the points.”
Leeds began brightly with the classy Samu Saiz immediately pulling the strings on his return to the No 10 role following a calf injury.
Hernandez cut inside from the left flank, but saw his low shot easily saved by Smith in the third minute.
We created big, very big, opportunities. We didn’t give them opportunities to come into the game or have chances.Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen
Only a superb sliding tackle by Liam Cooper five minutes later prevented Forest’s Ben Brereton from having a simple one-on-one against Felix Wiedwald at the other end.
United then began to pile on the pressure and Forest somehow survived in the 14th minute when a header by Pontus Jansson from a Hernandez corner was blocked on the line before Roofe acrobatically fired his follow-up attempt over the bar.
Roofe saw another attempt deflected to safety before Jansson put another header wide from a Hernandez corner.
After Forest’s Barrie McKay narrowly failed to meet a cross to the far post, United lost Luke Ayling to injury, even though the full-back initially attempted to play on as Forest’s Kieran Dowell fired wide.
The injury – which saw Vurnon Anita come on at left-back from where Gaetano Berardi switched to Ayling’s position – disrupted the flow of the game for the hosts.
Christiansen opted to bring on Lasogga for Gjanni Alioski during the half-time interval, switching Roofe to the right wing.
Kalvin Phillips fired a decent attempt just over from 25 yards before Forest were saved by the crossbar in the 56th minute after stunning play by Saiz. The Spaniard brilliantly turned his man on the halfway line and ran all the way to the edge of the box before laying on a precise pass for Roofe, who smashed a thunderous effort against the crossbar.
Roofe again misfired when well-placed with options in front of him shortly after before Forest enjoyed a decent spell during which Ben Osborn’s fierce shot was blocked by Cooper.
Wiedwald tipped a deflected long-range effort from Osborn over the bar before beating away a strong effort from Dowell for a corner.
But United finished the game in the ascendancy with chances going begging for Jansson, Saiz and Hernandez, Christiansen making his final throw of the dice by bringing on Hadi Sacko for Roofe with 10 minutes left.
Two golden chances were missed in those last 10 minutes with majestic play from Saiz presenting a fine opening for Hernandez, whose shot from inside the box was blocked by Smith.
Another clear-cut opportunity then went begging when Sacko’s cross to the far post found Lasogga, but there was not enough power in the German’s header and Smith saved.
United were given six minutes of added time to find a winner, but Lasogga burst into the area and saw his low shot saved before Hernandez sliced wide.
“The performance I liked a lot, but it was still not enough,” said Christiansen. “We lost two points, but there’s not much I can complain about – just the last pass or the last shot.”
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Ayling (Anita 26), Jansson, Cooper, Berardi, Phillips, O’Kane, Alioski (Lasogga 46), Saiz, Hernandez, Roofe (Sacko 80). Unused substitutes: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Klich, Cibicki.
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Worrall, Mancienne, Traore, Bridcutt, Osborn, Cash, Dowell, McKay (Carayol 75), Brereton (Walker 60). Unused substitutes: Fox, Clough, Vaughan, Henderson, Bouchalakis.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).