Luciano Becchio celebrates his match winning goal - Chris Brunskill
Leeds United made it two wins on the spin against sides from the top three of the Championship with a hard fought win over Leicester City. Luciano Becchio’s early penalty was enough to separate the two sides, end United’s miserable run of midweek form and pay fitting tribute to Gary Speed on the anniversary of his tragic death.
Leeds named an unchanged line up for the visit of Nigel Pearson’s Foxes retaining the forward partnership of El-Hadji Diouf and Luciano Becchio. The only change in the 18 was the introduction of Adam Drury to the subs bench instead of Dom Poleon, the youngster apparently being punished further for his defensive mistake on Saturday.
Leicester City featured former Whites keeper Kasper Schmeichel in goal as they looked to maintain their superb record at Elland Road whilst staying in touch at the top of the Championship.
The home side made a blistering start, going a goal up inside three minutes. Sam Byram, so impressive defensively on Saturday showed his attacking prowess by running at his opposite full back, the wonderfully named Jeff Schlupp, forcing the Leicester defender to bring him down, earning United a spot kick. Becchio stepped up to coolly slot the ball home, sending Schmeichel the wrong way.
With another moving 11 minute chant for Gary Speed from the 11th minute onwards taking place, Leeds looked lively going forward, Jerome Thomas once again a great outlet causing Leicester full back Richie De Laet all sorts of problem.
The visitors made sporadic forays into the Leeds half, De Laet firing a shot at Kenny, but it was United who looked more likely to add a second goal. A lovely flowing move saw Becchio away down the left hand side, the striker flighting in a delightful cross which was met sweetly by the onrushing Paul Green. The midfielders shot was superbly turned over the bar by Schmeichel who was slightly fortunate that the ball was straight at him.
There were no changes at the break, but Leicester started much the stronger with Waghorn having an effort blocked by Lee Peltier. The skipper looked particularly fired up against his old club, producing by far his best performance as a Leeds player.
A double substitution by Leicester saw striker Mark Futacs and Anthony Knockaert introduced. Within minutes Knockaert hit a long range effort which saw Paddy Kenny forced to push away at full stretch. At the other end Thomas continued to be a thorn in the side of the Leicester defence but appeared to pick up an injury around the hour mark. Whilst he was struggling, the Foxes mounted a huge amount of pressure on the Leeds goal, as the home defence struggled to clear the ball.
Although he appeared to have recovered, Thomas was withdrawn with Michael Brown entering the fray to solidify the middle of the Leeds midfield, with Michael Tonge moving on to the left hand side. The Whites instantly looked a lot more solid in the middle of the park, with Norris in particular producing a tigerish display. Leicester resorted to a host of long balls which were meat and drink to the outstanding central defensive pairing of Tom Lees and Alan Tate,
It was hard to believe but Leeds actually looked the more attractive side, looking like causing danger whenever they could gain controlled possession of the ball. They could quite easily of doubled their lead when Becchio was played through and rounded Schmeichel to tuck the ball away, but the Argentinean was dubiously given offside.
Four minutes stoppage time were added and there was a late scare to come as a Schmeichel through ball was deemed to have been tipped over the bar by Kenny, but the corner was seen off and the final whistle blew immediately to end the game and add three more precious points to the Leeds tally.
So after looking to be in a relegation scrap just a week ago, Leeds can now look upwards once more to the playoff places, the gap now just six points. The Whites now face two away trips with a visit to Huddersfield first on the agenda on Saturday lunchtime. A win there, to silence the upstarts down the road would cap a perfect week for Leeds United supporters.