Leeds United 3-1 Leicester City: Title race heats up as hosts net three in 12 minutes

Second placed Leeds United hosted EFL Championship league leaders Leicester City at Elland Road on Friday evening. Three second half goals within 12 minutes saw the Whites reduce the gap at the top of the table to just six points, opening up the title race as they continue their battle for promotion back to the Premier League.

LEE: Meslier; Gray, Rodon, Ampadu, Firpo; Gruev, Kamara; Gnonto, Rutter, Summerville; Piroe

LEI: Hermansen; Pereira, Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; Fatawu, Choudhury, Mavididi; Daka

Leicester made just one change to their starting line up as Hamza Choudhury came in for Dennis Praet with the headline being that former England striker Jamie Vardy was absent from the squad through injury. Patrick Bamford and Jaidon Anthony returned to the Leeds United bench with the home side’s starting XI unchanged from their victory away at Plymouth.

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Leeds were victorious in the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium in November, but hadn’t completed the double over the Foxes since the 1994-95 season. They were looking to change this with early pressure and an early set-piece that the visitors dealt with well at three-minutes.

Wilfried Gnonto set Joel Piroe up for the first big chance of the game, but the Dutchman scuffed the opportunity with his shot blazed high and wide of the goal.

Inside the opening ten-minutes, both sides saw plenty of the ball with it seemingly a very open game. Kieran Dewsbury-Hall took the free-kick on the 10-minute mark with the ball falling to Abdul Fatawu who failed to connect and trouble Meslier.

The Frenchman in net for the Whites was tested around the 15-minute mark with Pakson Daka forcing him to make a diving save after reaching a ball from Stephy Mavididi played from the edge of the area – the ball was sent out for a corner.

In the 16th minute, the scoring was opened with the Foxes taking the lead courtesy of a Wout Faes header. Patson Daka met the corner whipped in by Dewsbury-Hall at the front post before flicking the ball to Belgian defender who headed home at the back post, breaking the deadlock.

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The home side tried to respond immediately with Joel Piroe heading the ball just off-target at 18-minutes before Ricardo Pereira received the first yellow card of the game for a sliding tackle on Georginio Rutter.

Desperate to get back on level terms at Elland Road, the Whites continued to push forwards as Gnonto saw his effort blocked. Both teams looked dangerous when they broke forwards at pace, but the finishing product was lacking for the hosts as the game reached the 20-minute mark.

Archie Gray and Wilfried Gnonto linked up to draw a corner from the visitors, but Leicester managed to clear the danger and maintain their one-goal lead.

Georginio Rutter was working hard to create something for the home side as half-time loomed with the French forward carrying his side up the pitch on multiple occasions, his strength proving to be a problem for the Foxes who struggled to dispossess him at time.

After two-minutes of added time at the end of the first half, it was Wout Faes’ header that gave the visitors the lead with a huge 45 minutes to follow.

The Whites have an incredible home record and came out for the second half to their fans getting behind them, spuring them onto victory. Three points against the league leaders would see them tighten the title race as the two teams battle for automatic promotion back to the Premier League, only one season after relegation.

Leeds began strong but lacked the clinical finish needed to undo a determined Leicester side. The visitors spotted Meslier off his line at 48-minutes, but Fatawu’s attempt went high and wide of the goal as they failed to double their advantage.

Rutter found himself with an opportunity to test Hermansen shortly after, but he sent his effort way off target before Leicester were back on the attack with Abdul Fatawu pick pocketing Junior Firpo on the halfway line before drilling in a low effort that was blocked.

Meslier produced a crucial save as he dived to keep Stephy Mavididi out at 57-minutes as the visitors continued to apply the pressure.

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Leicester managed to find the back of the net in the 59th minute, but the goal was disallowed for offside. Jannik Vestegaard’s header ricocheted off the post with Patson Daka there to tap home the rebound, but the Whites escaped as the score remained 1-0 to the visitors.

Stephy Mavididi was the next Foxes‘ player to have a chance, but he sent his shot wide with Meslier excused from making the save.

After a period of possession that saw Leeds test Hermansen who was forced to save Patrick Bamford’s shot, they gave the ball away with Ricardo Pereira given a golden opportunity to net his side’s second of the night, but he fired his shot wide despite having run into space with time to take the shot.

At 80-minutes, subsitue Connor Roberts picked the perfect time to score his first goal in a Leeds shirt as he brought the home side back on level terms with 10-minutes remaining. Rutter did well to weave his way into the box with the ball falling into the path of Roberts after initially coming off a Leicester defender, and the Welsh right-back made no mistake firing it into the Leicester net to equalise.

Just three minutes later, Elland Road went crazy as Archie Gray netted his first goal in professional football, giving the Whites the lead. The 17-year-old had switched to the left flank when Connor Roberts came on from the bench and took the opportunity when the ball fell to him. His left-footed strike took two deflections on its way into the Leicester goal, but it was a crucial goal that turned the game around against the league leaders.

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With less than two minutes of normal time remaining, Leeds weren’t settling for two goals with Crysencio Summerville dribbling his way into the box and trying to get a shot off before Connor Roberts tried his luck, but the visitors managed to escape temporarily.

Five minutes of added time began with the hosts’ relentless press continuing. Jannik Vestegaard fouled Georginio Rutter just outside the box, conceding a free kick that subsitue Dan James stood over. The Welshman struck the ball with power and Patrick Bamford directed it towards goal on the edge of the wall as the Whites completed the comeback with three second-half goals to secure their ninth successive victory.

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The visitors were on their way to being 12 points clear at the top of the Championship table, but the title race was opened up as they became slaves to the Leeds rhythm – the Whites still haven’t lost a game in 2024. They face Chelsea in the FA Cup on Wednesday before returning to league action at the weekend away against Huddersfield Town.