Jack Harrison is goal hero as Leeds United move three points clear of Sheffield United
Leeds United took a massive stride towards their promotion goal as Jack Harrison’s second half goal earned them victory over Sheffield Wednesday and took them three points clear of rivals Sheffield United.
After the Blades had played earlier and drawn at home to Millwall the Elland Road ground was bouncing from the kick-off and the fans were rewarded with a 1-0 win that was far more comfortable than the final score suggested.
Once again the Whites squandered many chances, but the one that counted came from winger Harrison who tucked away Pablo Hernandez’s 65th minute low cross.
The winner was timely before frustrations set in at how United could dominate without getting the goals their play was deserving.
The first half was an open affair, however, with Wednesday looking dangerous on the break against a home team employing a three at the back system when defending and their usual 4-1-4-1 when in possession.
The first chance went to the home team as Tyler Roberts’ header from Ezgjan Alioski’s corner was acrobatically turned over by keeper Kieren Westwood.
The visitors had their best chance in the 17th minute as Gary Hooper raced through and shaped to go round home keeper Kiko Casilla. Luke Ayling got back to make a vital tackle, but the Wednesday player still got a shot in only to hit the side netting.
Leeds had another let off soon after as they failed to clear a cross and Adam Reach’s shot had to be cleared.
At the other end Alioski fired over and Roberts shot inches wide following a smart United break.
Casilla was called into action to tip a well struck curling shot by Barry Bannan round the post.
An even better save soon followed when Harrison’s header was brilliant tipped wide by the in-form Westwood.
A minute later Westwood was beaten by an Ayling shot, but the ball was cleared off the line and somehow the game remained goalless.
The chances kept coming with Pontus Jansson heading over and Roberts producing a fantastic turn in the area only to see his shot well saved by Westwood. He then lashed the follow-up wide.
In between these two home efforts Reach volleyed wide before he had to limp off injured.
Into the second half Jansson headed over from a corner before Bamford slid in to meet a Roberts low cross, but saw his initial effort blocked and a follow-up header while seated sent the ball wide.
Casilla saved comfortably from a Steven Fletcher header then it was all Leeds as they slowly turned the screw.
Hernandez sent a shot over after finding space for himself on the edge of the box, Roberts then shot wide and an Alioski effort from 20 yards was not far over.
Bamford should have done better when meeting Harrison’s low cross, but despite being free eight yards out he shot wide.
It seemed a goal had to come and it did with Harrison’s clever flicked finish finally rewarding United’s good approach play.
Wednesday threw on fresh strikers, but it was still the home team making all the running with Roberts shooting over and substitute Kemar Roofe putting the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.
Roofe was found in space by fellow sub Adam Forshaw, but produced a poor shot and the visitors survived again.
There was one late alarm for Leeds when they twice failed to clear crosses and Marco Matias hit a shot into the side netting.
But four minutes of injury-time were seen out comfortably as United got a win they so desperately wanted.
Head coach Bielsa was in do doubt his Leeds team deserved to win.
He said: “We created 10 chances to score, but we only scored one goal and we had to keep focus on the game until the end.
“We needed to create a lot of chances to score a goal. It is important to create close to the opponents’ goal.
“Losing Liam Cooper was difficult, but (Gaetano) Berardi you can trust and I am very happy for him because he contributed to the team at this important time.
“The defensive players did a good job. We gave a positive answer.
It is advantage Leeds in the promotion race, but Bielsa was not getting carried away.
He added: “There are 12 points to play for yet and we only have three points difference. It’s not a big difference, we have to stay focused.”
Wednesday manager Steve Bruce had words of praise for the Leeds team.
He said: “We didn’t do enough, but sometimes you have to credit the opposition.
“Leeds look a very good bet to me to go up. The transformation from 12 months ago is remarkable. The intensity they played at, we found it a struggle at times.
“We had a few chances, but to be honest the better team won on the day. They look a totally different team to 12 months ago with a lot of the same individuals who were here then. It’s credit to the coaching staff here.
“Their fitness levels are excellent and they come and press you. They do it with an intensity. They are young and aggressive in their work and they were very good today.
“It’s never been easy here with the big crowd and the crowd reminded me of what it was like 20 years ago. They have got an outstanding chance of going up.”
Leeds United 1
Sheffield Wednesday 0
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Casilla, Jansson, Phillips, Berardi, Ayling, Klich (Forshaw 76), Alioski, Hernandez, Roberts, Harrison (Dallas 86), Bamford (Roofe 64).
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Hector, Fox, Reach (Matias 41), Hutchinson, Bannan, Boyd, Hooper (Forestieri 65), Fletcher (Nuhiu 76).
Referee: Tim Robinson.