Birmingham City 1-0 Leeds United Player Ratings: selfless Maghoma

Che Effect – bbc.co.uk

Birmingham City delivered a gutsy performance on Saturday afternoon, when Che Adams’ first half goal gave them a 1-0 victory that dealt a blow to Leeds United’s automatic promotion hopes. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Birmingham City

Lee Camp – the goalkeeper got plenty of distance on his free-kicks and goal-kicks in the first half so, even if they did not always find the intended target of Jutkiewicz, the area the ball was in allowed Blues to apply the press high up. Might have been more commanding on one or two occasions and perhaps slightly fortunate that Bamford did not take his big, close-range chance in the first half. 6

Maxime Colin – the Frenchman battled well at right-back in the first half then, when Kieftenbeld got injured on 57 minutes, he adjusted admirably to his third position of the campaign – central midfield. He has always had quality on the ball and perhaps that aspect of his skillset made the transition easier. 8
Harlee Dean – the centre-back has not had the easiest campaign, but here he was very much back to his best with a no-nonsense performance. Dean was aggressive in the air and keen to get the ball forward with few frills. 9
Michael Morrison – there were one or two occasions in the first half when Morrison, caught high up the pitch from a set pieces, knew he was not going to get back into position in time to defend a potential counter-attack and started the press in the opposing third. That was very brave considering his declining legs, but the centre-back defended his box well in the second half as his leadership qualities shone through. 8
Kristian Pedersen – the driven Dane was not able to get forward here as much as he can, due to the nature of the performance, but this was a very committed display from Pedersen, who put in some strong challenges. 7

Maikel Kieftenbeld – the Dutch destroyer is normally very strong in the challenge, but perhaps this first half performance was slightly more about pressing intelligently, rather than aggressively and keeping the shape well when needed. Kieftenbeld’s energy was of course there, prior to his injury on 57 minutes, when he collided with an opponent after leading a counter-attack. 7
Gary Gardner – the Aston Villa loanee had been a steady presence in the first half and tried to show composure where possible, but was forced off at the break due to injury. 6

Conor Mahoney – the Bournemouth loanee would likely fair better in an attacking system, because he has quick feet in tight areas. Bearing that in mind, though, Mahoney still had a positive impact on the game, looking bright down the right in the first half and leading the odd counter-attack in the second. Guilty of switching off on one or two occasions though to let Alioski get into a dangerous area. 6
Jacques Maghoma – led the counter-attack that led to Adams’ opener and got through some excellent work without the ball. Playing wide in a 4-2-2-2 – especially against a team like Leeds – is a very demanding task because it involves helping the front two press, but also helping Pedersen defensively and Maghoma balanced those responsibilities perfectly, even if his final ball was not always on-point. 8

Lukas Jutkiewicz – the tall striker did not win all of the aerial duels that came his way – partly because a lot of them were played from the defensive third – but the fact he consistently challenged his opponents meant that they could not head away convincingly and that allowed Blues to apply the press. Jutkiewicz has perhaps had more striking games as an individual forward, but this job for the team was equally necessary. 7
Che Adams – the forward swivelled to fire into the far, bottom left-hand corner in trademark style to put Blues ahead. Adams deserved his goal, too, because his tireless pressing and willingness to run onto his strike-partner’s flick-ons – even when not favourite for a ball – set the tone for this dogged team performance. Quieter in the second half when he had fewer opportunities to get a feel for the ball in the opposing half – although he was denied one-on-one by Casilla. 8

David Davis (45) – the midfielder’s unusually subdued performance at West Brom invited questions over his post-injury fitness, but Davis answered those doubts with aplomb in this 45 minutes, as he showed great tenacity after replacing Gardner at the break. 7
Wes Harding (57) – naturally for an academy graduate, Harding has had a slight dip in form recently but he made a huge contribution here. Produced the kind of no-nonsense clearances that were required in the circumstances and went on one or two powerful runs down the right to relieve pressure on his teammates. 7
Jota (76) – the sparkling Spaniard normally needs runners around him to maximize his creative qualities and, with 14 minutes of normal time to hold out against one of the best teams in the division, this was probably not quite the period in which Blues could play to Jota’s strengths. 5

Leeds United

Kiko Casilla – returning from a one-match ban, Casilla is clearly a brave goalkeeper not afraid to come off his line, as he did to deny Adams one-on-one – a stop that could prove more important than it looks now if the automatic promotion race goes down to goal difference. Could not be blamed too much for the goal, which was very much to do with the quality of the strike. 6

Luke Ayling – Birmingham’s defensive structure lured Leeds’ midfielders further away from Ayling, which restricted his capabilities. The former Bristol City man does not have the pace to attack the flank directly so, when he was released as the man in space, his options were very limited. Although, the right-back did produce the deep delivery that led to Leeds’ best chance of the game for Bamford in the first half – in some ways it is almost impressive that he can play in a contest not tailored to his qualities and still make that kind of one-off contribution. 5
Liam Cooper – a decent performance. Cooper was typically committed and did everything he could have done to try to prevent Adams getting a shot away, when the responsibility probably lied more with the midfield. Could not be faulted too much for the defeat. 7
Pontus Jansson – there were one or two occasions in the first half in which Maghoma got in down the right and Jansson was forced to rush out into the channel, perhaps uncharacteristically for a defender often associated with providing composure and control. In some ways, that was perhaps the first slight hint that Leeds were not quite working to their optimum level. 6
Ezgjan Alioski – ironically, Leeds could have done with a full-back possessing Ayling’s capacity for combination play in tight areas on the left, where space was more condensed. Equally, they could have done with a full-back possessing Alioski’s capacity for direct runs on the right, where there would have been more space. As it was, the Macedonian struggled for opportunities to burst into space, as he has done so often since Barry Douglas’ initial injury. 5

Kalvin Phillips – the holding midfield spent much of this game in Leeds’ defence, as Marcelo Bielsa sought a back-three to combat the two strikers. Although the logic to this was sound, it also meant that Phillips was not high enough up the pitch to influence the game with his strong challenges. It also meant Leeds were split into three-man and seven-man defensive and attacking units respectively, without the link player with the vision to switch play. 5

Pablo Hernandez – it was only in the second half, when Birmingham’s defensive line dropped, that Hernandez was able to find any space in the kind of areas he usually thrives in. The Spaniard specialises in picking out runners in behind but here there were perhaps too many players coming short for the ball and thus scope for a quality, telling through ball was limited. 5
Mateusz Klich – apart from one or two good passes out to the wide areas, the Pole was quiet in the first half and it was only in the second that he was able to make any of the searching runs deep into the channels that he typically likes. Even then, he lacked the productivity to make anything of them. 4
Tyler Roberts – on one or two occasions early on, we saw flashes of evidence that he can combine with Bamford and pop up in a goalscoring position, which he has the instinct to do as a striker by trade even though stationed on paper as a midfielder. Looked among the brighter Leeds players and made some decent runs into the right channel in the second half, with elements of pace and power to aid that threat. 7
Jack Harrison – the Manchester City loanee was anonymous in the first half, partly because Birmingham denied space on his side of the pitch and, facing a similar issue to Alioski, he was unable to stretch his legs in the way that he wants and likes to. Taken off at the break – although ironically there was more space out on the left in the second half, when he made have had opportunities to show more of what he can do. 4

Patrick Bamford – the former Middlesbrough front-man showed the quality of movement to receive Leeds’ two best-chances of the game. He eluded Morrison’s attentions on 28 minutes to latch onto Ayling’s well-flighted cross but, with the goal gaping, could only find the woodwork from close-range; a costly near-miss considering events in the subsequent 60 seconds. Early in the second half, he fashioned another near-post opening from Stuart Dallas, but good opposition defending saw the ball forced wide. 6

Stuart Dallas (45) – the former Brentford wide man did well from the bench and at times linked up reasonably down the right with Roberts and Ayling, producing the near-post cross that led to Bamford’s chance – the best Leeds had after the break. 7
Kemar Roofe (70) – the former Oxford forward ran the channels selflessly as expected but, when he did that, there was nobody in the box. Marcelo Bielsa could have paired him with Bamford for the closing stages rather than replace like-for-like, because it was not as if Birmingham were leaving too many men forward at that stage. 6
Jack Clarke (on 70) – the academy graduate has been unearthed as a real gem this term but, because he is a direct runner, he looks best when deployed on the right. Instead, Clarke was on the left here and struggled to provide the kind of width the Whites needed. 5