Leeds United went top of the Sky Bet Championship on the back of another clean sheet and a battling 2-0 victory over Birmingham City in front of a big midweek crowd at Elland Road.
With 31,507 inside the famous old ground the Whites could not repeat their brilliant attacking football from Saturday’s win over Burton, but showed they could defend well also when called upon to see off a spirited effort by Harry Redknapp’s men.
Samuel Saiz’s sixth goal of the season set Leeds on the way in the first half and they wrapped up the points with an injury-time goal by substitute Stuart Dallas.
In between they had to work hard to beat their visitors with a great clearance off the line by Luke Ayling shortly before half-time just as important in the end as their goals.
United started where they left off against Burton with some sharp, incisive attacking football, although they were being forced to play fast through Birmingham’s pressing game.
Kalvin Phillips sent an early free-kick over and Pablo Hernandez saw his volley loop over the goalkeeper only to be headed off the line.
The visitors went close with Michael Morrison’s header from a corner and Pontus Jansson came up with a good block to deny Sam Gallagher.
But it was United who broke the deadlock when Pierre-Michel Lasogga fired in a fantastic shot from a tight angle and although David Stockdale made a good save Saiz followed up to score from close range.
A minute later it was almost two as Lasogga’s looping header went over.
Hernandez was picked out by Saiz, but sent his half-volley wide.
However, for the rest of the first half the visitors took more of a grip in midfield and began to trouble the Whites.
Tricky winger Jeremie Boga got round Ayling only to shoot into the side netting from a tough angle.
Birmingham’s other wide man, Jota, saw a shot deflected wide after he went on a dangerous run, but the closest to an equaliser came when Maxime Colin beat the onrushing Felix Wiedwald to the ball and headed it over him. It looked a goal all over, but no-one told Ayling as he chased back to pull off a terrific clearance.
Morrison’s header from the resulting corner was comfortably gathered by Wiedwald and Leeds were happy to still be ahead at the break.
The second half saw Birmingham have more of the possession, but United still looked dangerous in attack with Lasogga denied by Stockdale who was out quickly to smother at the striker’s feet.
Gallagher had a great chance for the visitors as he raced clear from a quickly taken free-kick only to pull his shot wide.
More pressure came to nothing with the hosts defending well despite losing skipper Liam Cooper to injury with Ayling have to go to centre-back.
Saiz continued to look a threat up front and his attempted clever flick was easily saved after his run into the box.
Che Adams had a shot from range comfortably saved by Wiedwald, but again despite their lack of possession Leeds created a better opening as Eunan O’Kane’s smart flick put Saiz in space in the area and his shot was superbly saved low down by Stockdale.
Another low shot from outside the box was well held by Wiedwald and there was a growing feeling that United were going to hold on for the points with no clear cut chances for their opponents.
They did better than that as in the second minute of injury-time Lasogga’s pass sent Dallas away down the right and he cut in before smashing the ball in at the near post to send the home crowd into raptures and a huge chant of “Leeds are top of the league”.
Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen admitted his team did not play at their best, but he was delighted to take the points.
He said: “I’m very happy with the result and also the way we took these points.
“It was a very tough game as Birmingham gave us problems. But to win a game where you probably do not play as well as you have in recent games probably you are more satisfied.
“Today was a team win. Everyone fought for the same goal to keep Birmingham from scoring and we did it.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted, but we were up against a good opponent who should not stay in their current position.
“It’s not easy to play games so close to each other. There was a high intensity in the physical game.
“It’s a team that believes in possibilities and fight for the points. The whole team had to work hard.”
Leeds United 2
(Saiz 17, Dallas 90+2)
Birmingham City 0
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper (Berardi 68), Anita, Alioski (Roofe 60), O’Kane, Phillips, Saiz, Hernandez (Dallas 79), Lasogga.
Birmingham: Stockdale, Nsue, Dean, Morrison, Colin, Jota (Maghoma 79), Lowe, Davis (Walsh 79), Ndoye, Boga, Gallagher (Adams 68).
Referee: Peter Bankes.