Pep Clotet’s charges showed bucketloads of character and resolve, but they struggled to contain the pace and ingenuity of the visitors in the defensive half of the pitch.BCFC.COM
Pep Clotet’s charges showed bucketloads of character and resolve, but they struggled to contain the pace and ingenuity of the visitors in the defensive half of the pitch.
Leeds threatened to run away with the contest in the opening quarter, Helda Costa and Jack Harrison applying the finishing touches to quick counterattacks. But Blues didn’t let their heads drop, Jude Bellingham reducing the deficit before the break and Lukas Jutkiewicz completing the comeback on 61 minutes.
The match was then on a knife edge, and at that stage it was Blues that looked the most likely to get the fifth goal. But, against the run of play, Marcelo Bielsa’s team went in front for a second time through Luke Ayling.
With eight minutes of normal time to go, it looked like Leeds would see out the win, but then came a breathless conclusion.
Jeremie Bela and Jutkiewicz equalised twice more, in between Stuart Dallas netting the visitors’ fourth goal of the game, before an Ayling cross went in off the unfortunate Harding to complete an unbelievable afternoon’s action at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium.
Blues pressed early on and a nice passing move ended with Kristian Pedersen forging forward and letting fly from 20 yards, his shot veering wide of Kiko Casilla’s right-hand post.
Leeds went ahead on 15 minutes from a scintillatingly quick breakaway from well inside their own half, Harrison leading the charge with a storming run before setting up Costa who finishing coolly past Connal Trueman.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts as Bielsa’s men doubled their lead just six minutes later, another quick attack culminating with Ezgjan Alioski teeing up Harrison inside the area. The winger’s first-time shot took a heavy deflection off Harlee Dean, giving Trueman little chance as the ball fizzed into the top right corner of the net.
Blues needed a quick response and it came from the right boot of teenage starlet Bellingham. Dean strode forward from the back and played a clever ball to open up the Leeds defence, Maxime Colin taking it down the right flank before cutting back to Bellingham who produced an excellent composed finish into the bottom right corner of the net.
Bellingham continued to keep the home fans buzzing with more clever link-up play with Colin on the right ending with a dangerous cross that was blocked. Blues’ tails were up and the fans were enthused, a couple of neat pieces of footwork from Pedersen bringing further cheers of delight.
After a sluggish start, Blues were well and truly back in the game. And as the half drew to a close, they could have even gone in level following a 45th minute foray into the Leeds area. Mrabti headed on Colin’s cross, a Dan Crowley effort blocked and Jutkiewicz was only able to poke his shot over the bar as he stretched out a leg to try and connect to a bouncing ball.
Clotet’s men maintained their more up-tempo approach after the break and got their just rewards as they restored parity just after the hour mark. Mrabti headed a right-wing corner back into the six-yard box, Casilla tried and failed to claim the ball under pressure from Dean and Jutkiewicz headed the ball into the net to the delight of the packed-in Tilton Road fans behind that goal.
Blues made their first change midway through the half, with Bela replacing Crowley, but within seconds the substitute sat off Ayling as he picked up the ball wide on the right. The full-back took the initiative, playing the ball past the Frenchman before unleashing an unstoppable half-volley into the far corner of the net.
Bela may have been slightly responsible for allowing Leeds to retake the lead, but he made amends on 83 minutes as he drifted into the area to connect with Pedersen’s free-kick swung diagonally into the area, his glancing header taking the ball over the advancing Casilla and into the net.
But, frustratingly, Blues held the lead for only a matter of seconds as Leeds went straight back up the other end to edge in front for a third time in the game. A swift attack down the left set up Dallas who swept the ball past Trueman from 10 yards.
However, this incredible game took another twist just seconds into stoppage-time as Bela fired a fantastic cross into the six-yard box from wide on the right and, as the Leeds defence dallied, Jutkiewicz slid in at the far post to poke the ball past Casilla.
But with six additional minutes having just been announced over the tannoy, the visitors knew there was plenty of time to regain the initiative and did just that in 90+5. A low ball into the box was diverted past Trueman by Harding, with Jack Harrison waiting to pounce behind him.
St. Andrew’s was left stunned and the visitors this time held on to claim maximum points, a result that took them back to the top of the league. Blues, meanwhile, must now regroup ready for a New Year’s Day clash at home to bottom-of-the-table Wigan Athletic.
Blues (4-2-3-1): Trueman; Colin, Dean, Harding, Pedersen; Sunjic, G Gardner; Crowley (Bela 68), Mrabti (Gimenez 74), Bellingham (Montero 74); Jutkiewicz.
Subs (not used): Davis, McEachran, Maghoma, Camp (GK).
Goal: Bellingham (27), Jutkiewicz (61, 90+1), Bela (83)
Bookings: Gardner (39), Harding (48), Mrabti (62), Jutkiewicz (63), Montero (90+3)
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Casilla; Ayling, White, Cooper, Alioski; Phillips; Costa, Klich (Berardi 86), Dallas, Harrison; Nketiah (Roberts 81).
Subs (not used): Douglas, Gotts, Stevens, Casey, Meslier (GK).
Goals: Costa (15), Harrison (21), Ayling (69), Dallas (84), Harding og (90+5)
Bookings: Casilla (72), Nketiah (73), Ayling (88)
Attendance: 22,059 (1,980 away)