Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Leeds United
Nottingham Forest 1 – 0 Leeds United. Brennan Johnson scored the only goal as Nottingham Forest beat Leeds to move six points clear of the relegation places.
Forest were second best throughout the first half but led at the break thanks to Johnson’s thumping 14th-minute strike.
After Leeds failed to clear a free-kick on the right, the ball bounced up for Wales forward to rifle it into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The hosts were indebted to debutant goalkeeper Keylor Navas, on loan from Paris St-Germain, who made important first-half saves from Wilfried Gnonto, Luke Ayling and Luis Sinisterra, who put Leeds’ best chance of the game over the bar from six yards out.
Leeds’ threat all but vanished in the second period and Forest comfortably held on for a third victory in five Premier League games, moving up to the 13th in the table.
Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch’s Leeds have now gone seven league games without a win and stay 17th, above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Of Forest’s 29 signings since the start of last summer, Navas – a three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid – was perhaps the biggest name.
He quickly showed why he is so highly rated, racing off his line and getting down sharply to deny Sinisterra inside the first two minutes.
Forest struggled to get going at all in the first half with ventures into the Leeds half few and far between and while the visitors by no means laid siege to Navas’ goal, the Costa Rican was there to make a number of crucial interventions when called upon.
Ayling and Gnonto had goalbound efforts repelled with the former also seeing his header back across goal clawed away by Navas ahead of the waiting Patrick Bamford.
With Steve Cooper’s side much improved after the break, Navas had a much quieter stint but had already proved his worth.
A reliable goalscorer is often touted as crucial in a relegation scrap – Johnson is beginning to step up to that role – but a goalkeeper to bail you out when you’re not at your best is priceless.
Even at 36, Navas looks perfectly equipped to be that man for Forest.
Another dispiriting result leaves Leeds without a Premier League since 5 November.
Even taking into account the break for the World Cup, it is a statistic that makes for grim reading for their supporters.
Given the way Marsch’s side started at the City Ground, it could so easily have been the day they snapped that winless streak.
They were bright, popping the ball around quickly and creating openings with the impressive Gnonto central to their threat.
However, they were let down by an all too familiar failing as a number of presentable chances were passed up.
Gnonto squared for Sinisterra, who leaned back and blazed his shot over the bar. The Italian winger then cut the ball back for Bamford, who fluffed the shot; Ayling kept it alive but put his shot too close to the goalkeeper.
Then Gnonto himself had a chance, pouncing on an error by Neco Williams, but his near-post effort was pushed away.
As well as Navas played, more than once Leeds really shouldn’t have given him a chance.
Perhaps even more worrying for Leeds was a second half in which they not only failed to create any clear chances but rarely even got themselves in a position to do so.
Marsch was backed in the transfer window and with pressure on his building, he must hope his new recruits – one of whom, Weston McKennie, made his debut off the bench – can help change his side’s fortunes quickly.
source – BBC