Pontus Jansson boosts Leeds closer to play-off places
Pontus Jansson scored the winner as Leeds continued their revival with a 1-0 victory over Norwich at Elland Road which kept them on the brink of the Sky Bet Championship play-off places.
Six defeats in seven league matches had seen Leeds plummet down the table, heaping the pressure on boss Thomas Christiansen.
But results have improved drastically over the last month and Jansson’s header – his second in as many home games – made it 13 points from a possible 18 to leave United one off the top six.
The impressive Alex Pritchard hit the crossbar late on for Norwich, who suffered a fourth consecutive defeat on the road, as they pushed hard for an equaliser.
The Canaries were 3-0 ahead after 45 minutes of this fixture last season, in a game which all but ended Garry Monk’s team’s hopes of securing a play-off spot, and they started brightly again.
Pritchard had their first shot on goal, bringing a comfortable save out of Felix Wiedwald.
Leeds started to settle and full-back Gaetano Berardi, who is still waiting for his first goal for the club, almost brought the crowd to their feet with a rasping 30-yard drive which fizzed wide before Luke Ayling headed Pawel Cibicki’s free-kick straight at Angus Gunn on the half-hour.
Nelson Oliveira unlocked the Leeds defence with a clever flick on the edge of the box but Kalvin Phillips produced a crucial last-ditch sliding tackle to prevent James Maddison from shooting inside the box.
It was Leeds who broke the deadlock in the 41st minute when Jansson met Cibicki’s sumptuous free-kick and his glancing header went in off the far post, moments after Phillips hit the upright when stretching for Gianni Alioski’s set-piece delivery.
Maddison missed a glorious chance to equalise on the stroke of half-time, firing over after Wiedwald had parried Oliveira’s curling effort.
The Leeds goalkeeper then atoned for his error shortly after the interval to deny Pritchard at the far post with a point-blank save following Liam Cooper’s failure to deal with a cross.
Wiedwald had to be alert again to hold on to a deflected Maddison shot as Norwich went in search of a leveller.
But the hosts were keen for a second goal and Samuel Saiz had a low shot pushed behind by Gunn, who then looked on helplessly as Phillips’ long-range drive flew wide in the 64th minute.
Yet back came Norwich and only the crossbar could deny Pritchard from 20 yards 10 minutes later before Wiedwald pushed away another stinger from the midfielder.
Leeds should have netted a second six minutes later but Saiz, after taking advantage of a short Grant Hanley backpass, hit a post and substitute Pablo Hernandez found the side-netting.