Leeds hold on against Norwich to close in on automatic spots24 January 2024
Leeds climbed to within two points of the Sky Bet Championship's automatic-promotion places with a 1-0 win against Norwich at Elland Road.
Patrick Bamford scored the game's solitary goal with a thumping first-half header and that was enough to seal Leeds their fifth straight win in all competitions and keep the pressure on their promotion rivals.
Norwich were not without their chances - Gabriel Sara's first-half effort was the best of them - but they slipped to their first defeat in six games and failed to climb into the play-off places.
In a fixture brought forward because both sides are in FA Cup action this weekend, there was little to excite the crowd in the opening quarter of an hour.
But Bamford changed that in the 16th minute after a concerted spell of home pressure as his fourth goal in five games put Leeds ahead.
Georginio Rutter and Daniel James combined on the edge of the box and the latter provided a pinpoint assist to the far post where Bamford expertly headed back across a flat-footed Angus Gunn and into the far corner.
Norwich, Leeds boss Daniel Farke's former club, did not stir until Josh Sargent's shot was blocked in the 35th minute and captain Kenny McLean then blazed a golden chance over the crossbar.
But Leeds' dominance was not reflected in chances and Norwich served another warning just before the break when Sara mis-hit Jack Stacey's cross to the back post.
Jaidon Anthony replaced James at the break and helped set up Crysencio Summerville, who fired an early second-half chance off target before Norwich stepped it up.
The Canaries appeared to be gaining momentum, but Leeds pounced on a mis-placed pass from Sara and it took a last-ditch block from McLean to deny Anthony in front of goal.
Summerville's cross, after racing on to Junior Firpo's precision pass, deserved better than Bamford's wayward effort and Rutter was denied by Gunn's out-stretched boot as Leeds chased a killer second goal.
But it did not come and Norwich threatened an equaliser on the counter-attack when substitute Adam Idah was brilliantly thwarted by 17-year-old Archie Gray.
It was end-to-end action in the closing stages. Summerville's shot curled just wide and Firpo's low effort was saved by Gunn before the final whistle was met by huge roars of relief from the home fans as Leeds held on.
Leeds' Daniel Farke:
"Daniel James sadly, I had to substitute him because at the half-time whistle he overstretched his hip flexor.
"I think it's a little strain. I hope it's not too bad. I think he will definitely be out for the FA Cup game at the weekend, but hope he can return to training soon because we need him. He's in brilliant shape.
"Archie Gray, in the beginning, I was concerned because he had a hit against his knee and overstretched it and was panicking a little bit.
"He was fearing something with the ligament and had to limp off. After the first assessment I'm carefully optimistic. It seems like ACL ligaments are OK and it's more or less just a hit.
"We have to wait for further assessment, but I'm carefully optimistic it's not a long-term injury."
"Credit to Norwich, first of all," he added. "They are definitely one of the best sides that have played at Elland Road this season.
"It was a really complicated game and for that I'm more than happy that we won this game, three points, another clean sheet.
"Four clean sheets in January and scoring goals - I'm pretty pleased with this."
Norwich's David Wagner:
"We gave Leeds a real game, we were absolutely competitive, and games like this will get decided by small margins.
"Congratulations to Leeds, a top team with super attacking individuals. But I think we kept them quite calm.
"In the second half everyone could see when we were really able to pin them into their final third without, to be honest, having the final punch in the box.
"Result, frustrating, but I'm absolutely fine with the performance."
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