Birmingham 1-3 Leeds Seven Things: visitors clinical

Leeds celebrate Wood’s second – mirror.co.uk

A Chris Wood brace helped Leeds to a fortuitous 3-1 win at Birmingham – but what are the main discussion points?

Birmingham started brightly

Gianfranco Zola’s side had taken confidence from last week’s win at Wolves. Pablo Hernandez’ disconnect from Leeds’ double-pivot of Liam Bridcutt and Eunan O’Kane meant they did not cover enough ground, allowing Blues to play some nice, one-touch football. The tenacious Craig Gardner saw his goalbound shot deflected onto the side netting by the industrious David Davis, who unsuccessfully claimed an 11th minute penalty after a trip.

Green thwarted Adams

The Robert Green that made a gaffe on the opening day and faced criticism for weeks looks a different man to the Robert Green that is now so often Leeds’ saviour. Che Adams had the beating of Pontus Jansson in the first 20 minutes and when he latched onto Gardner’s flick, the outstanding Green denied the forward one-on-one on 13 minutes.

Wood was clinical

That save from Green was proved vital one minute later. The quietly effective Luke Ayling played a hopeful forward ball which saw Ryan Shotton slip and Chris Wood pounce, the striker superbly lobbing Tomasz Kuszczak. Wood always stays alert and sharp in dangerous areas, even when he is not involved too much. It is fair to say that if the New Zealander was still at St Andrews – his home for the 11/12 campaign – Blues would convert more of the chances they are creating.

Nsue a threat

Tesche hit the bar from range at the end of the first half and at the start of the second, he picked out some good passes for right wing-back Emilio Nsue. The former Boro man caused problems for Leeds left-siders Gaetano Berardi and Souleymane Doukara, putting in some dangerous crosses. One of them saw Adams’ header blocked on the line by the imperious Kyle Bartley, before the forward turned the ball over from close range and then forced another save from Green, all within 90 seconds.

Phillips changed the game

O’Kane looked off the pace but his 58th minute replacement, Kalvin Phillips, turned the tide. The substitute’s playing time did coincide with Blues’ equalizer, Gardner striking a firm left-footed drive into the bottom corner on 63 minutes. The hosts did not build on that though as Phillips used his energy and quality in possession to help Leeds get further up the pitch. He would go on to have a hand in both of the last two goals.

Cogley isn’t a centre-back

With Wood lurking, the Blues back-line knew from experience that they couldn’t afford any more ‘slip-ups’. Alas, Josh Dacres-Cogley lost his footing after Phillips’ lay-off and Wood capitalized with a predatory first time finish. Cogley is an attacking full-back by trade and though he looked composed on the ball, he lacked the standard qualities required from a centre-back, even in a three-man defence. The 20-year-old backed off Alfonso Pedraza, another substitute who impressed for the visitors, allowing the Spaniard to tuck the ball into the far corner. The fact Leeds barely attacked in the first hour yet ended the match with three goals says much about the way Birmingham defended.

A familiar story

That game encapsulated the fortunes of both teams. Birmingham very often hit the woodwork and create numerous chances but struggle to take them, then pay for mistakes at the other end. By contrast, Leeds tend to endure challenging first halves, then take control once a second half lead is gained. They could maintain a promotion challenge with that formula, so long as Green and Wood continue to produce those match-winning moments.