Leeds 1-0 Southampton: Junior Firpo strikes late for the hosts to lift them out of the bottom three, leaving Saints adrift at the foot of the Premier League after tense relegation battle
- Junior Firpo’s right-footed shot 13 minutes from time helped Leeds beat Saints
- It was Javi Gracia’s first match in charge of the hosts as they jumped up to 17th
- Southampton are left adrift at the foot of the Premier League table with defeat
Junior Firpo scored his first Premier League goal as new manager Javi Gracia began his reign at Elland Road with a priceless three points to take his side out of the relegation zone.
In a nervy relegation six-pointer, Firpo broke forward from full-back to squeeze home the winner after 77 minutes and earn his side their first win since Bonfire Night.
Saints stay bottom as a result and few will have sympathy for the spoiling tactics they employed until falling behind.
Gracia made just one change on his debut with Brenden Aaronson replacing Crysencio Summerville. But there was a tactical tweak with the American pushed up front to join Patrick Bamford in a two-pronged attack.
Saints boss Ruben Selles, whose job changed from interim to permanent last week, unsurprisingly started with the same side that won last time out at Chelsea.
Junior Firpo struck 13 minutes from time to secure a crucial win for Leeds in relegation battle
It was the first time Javi Gracia took charge of the hosts after joining, and it was a crucial win
Leeds started brightly with danger-man Willie Gnonto setting up Bamford and then having a shot blocked by Jan Bednarek.
Luke Ayling and Aaronson missed the target before the latter pounced on a Bamford knockdown and saw his effort inadvertently blocked by Harrison.
It still took 36 minutes for either side to mount a shot on target with Bazunu easily saving from Bamford.
Saints were sporadic in attack but Stuart Armstrong should have done better than hit the side-netting and Paul Onuachu was denied by Meslier after a quick turn by Kamaldeen Sulemana instigated a counter.
Home fans were frustrated by the visitors regularly trying to disrupt the flow. Defender Armel Bella-Kotchap twice needed treatment and Bazunu waited for Romain Perraud to sort out his footwear before continuing the game.
There were jeers when only one minute of injury-time was signalled at the end of the first half and after the interval Leeds players were ready to restart several minutes before Southampton emerged from their dressing-room.
Stuart Armstrong was the first name into the book after being beaten by Gnonto for speed and the Italian departed shortly after for Summerville.
Selles then responded by making a triple-change of his own eating up more gametime. One of the new arrivals Sekou Mara immediately stung the palms of Meslier with a snapshot.
Leeds finally struck through an unlikely source. Summerville cleverly wriggled into space on the left and his ball into Harrison was played onto Firpo with a neat backheel.
New Southampton arrival Sekou Mara made an immediate impression with his snapshot
Patrick Bamford lets off a shot for Leeds against their fellow league strugglers Southampton
Selles was leading Southampton for the first time since signing a deal to the end of the season
The full-back’s shot wasn’t firmly struck but with Bazunu’ partially unsighted, it bobbled past the keeper’s outstretched left arm.
Urgency suddenly surged into Southampton’s game. Ironically, when Bamford took his time walking off to be substituted, he got a shove from Romeu Lavia who was booked. Summerville missed a golden chance in injury-time to score a second but on this occasion one was enough.