Leeds United FC 3 vs Birmingham FC 0 – Farke rings changes for New Year. This was the first game of the year and Farke started with some planned and forced changes. Bamford made a rare start, and then scored, Farke had to put on third choice goalkeeper Klaesson who kept a clean sheet, giving fans a complete performance with three different goals. The only downsides were that the score should have been 5-0 with better finishing, and a few lapses in defensive concentration.
Without Meslier and Struijk Birmingham could have made more of the weakened defence. Instead, they were inept. It took till nearly half time before they tested Klaesson. They would not manage another attack until the end of the match.
After two away defeats all the players needed to step up – start aggressively and score. The first half hour was lethargic with fans becoming tetchy at the sideways passing. It needed the first goal from Bamford to get the team confidence back. Ultimately it is the finishing that stopped Leeds score five or more goals with the passing not always reaching the final man. Even a five man Birmingham defence could not stop the aggressive Leeds play as they consistently won second balls.
As Leeds grew more confident Gray and Georginio upped the pace. The first goal came from Gray passing to James who, on the by line made the the perfect cross into the box with Bamford finding space to make the simplest of headers into the goal.
From a Birmingham throw in Leeds scored their second goal. This time Summerville passed to Firpo who crossed the ball in front of goal which ran to James as Birimgnham defenders were left standing still. Having watched James in an interview after the match I didn’t realise how much a boxer’s nose he has?
Leeds started the second half with the same level of energy and were eventually rewarded with a third goal. At first the crosses were not quite working. Birmingham kept up the pressure for that first goal, giving Klaesson a rare save to make. The third goal came from an exquisite Georginio ball over the top to Firpo who again crossed into the box for a composed finish by Summervile into the corner of the net.S Fans from both sides mischievously sang that Rooney was getting sacked in the morning.
With the game under control Farke rested players – the fans showed their appreciation of Bamford for his return to form – one goal and one ball off the post. Farke talked about his “moodiness” earlier in the season but today he was back to form.
Defender Firpo who came on as a sub will be remembered in this match for his forward play – not a defender for which he showed a lack of pace. Birmingham kept taking advantage of Leeds’ momentary lapses of concentration but Rodon was there.
Alas a fourth goal was never realised as a goal in the last ten minutes was ruled off side. The match ended with Ampadu set up for a shot on target – alas it is saved and his first goal for Ampadu is still waited for.
Summerville and James were consistently threatening down the wings all the way to scoring, they were simply too quick and slick for the Birmingham defence. When Summerville went on his runs he inevitably had at least two players around him, but James was given too much space to cross. James could have managed a hat trick if it were not for the ball getting caught under his feet.
Rodon was also back to his best stopping Birimingham attacks. Sadly, despite a bright start, Byram was injured after only 14 minutes. No surprise there, and he has only recently returned from injury.
Man of the match: Georginio, sat behind Bamford, terrorised the Birmingham defence with his dribbling, and earned repeated fouls through the match. His only weakness is his finishing when shooting himself. Farke is looking for tidiness from him in his play.