Nottingham Forest inflicted further damage to Leeds United’s promotion hopes and boosted their own ambitions of a return to the Premier League by edging an absorbing end-to-end contest at the City Ground.
Sammy Ameobi put the hosts in front before half-time, beating goalkeeper Kiko Casilla at his near post when the Spaniard had anticipated the shot going towards the opposite corner.
Leeds predictably bossed possession throughout – seeing 70% of the ball despite being away from home – but it was the Reds who looked by far the more threatening in an energetic and resourceful counter-attacking display.
And, with the visitors pushing desperately for an equaliser, Forest scored a second goal deep into stoppage time when Joe Lolley teed up Tyler Walker for a simple tap-in after another swift breakaway.
Following Fulham’s victory at Blackburn Rovers earlier on Saturday, Marcelo Bielsa’s side are now level on points with the third-placed Cottagers, having also squandered the opportunity to go top by losing to the Reds.
The result further extended what has been a miserable run of form for Leeds, who have now won just twice since 10 December – at which point they held an 11-point gap to Fulham.
Forest, meanwhile, are just one point further back in fourth and are one of at least five sides who look firmly in the mix for automatic promotion.
Chances missed at both ends in thrilling game
Given the contrasting fortunes of the two sides in recent weeks, the match-up promised to be one of the most enthralling of the Championship season so far – and did not disappoint.
Tiago Silva had forced Casilla into a fine diving stop even before Ameobi’s opener, while Ezgjan Alioski twice hooked efforts wide of the target at the other end.
The game really opened up after half-time, however, with gilt-edged opportunities wasted by both teams.
Lewis Grabban missed arguably the clearest of them, unbelievably firing straight at Casilla with the goal at his mercy and the visiting keeper helplessly stranded on the floor.
Leeds captain Liam Cooper nearly made him pay for that miss but could not beat Brice Samba with a powerful downward header when completely unmarked from a corner.
Despite a succession of late set-pieces and balls into the box that was the closest the visitors came to equalising, as Walker added extra gloss to the scoreline with what was nearly the final kick of the game.
Leeds’ decline in numbers
Since beating Hull City to earn a seventh successive victory on 10 December, Leeds have won just twice in the Championship. Here is the tale of their startling decline in numbers…
- The Whites have trailed at some stage in eight of their past nine Championship games – since Cardiff City came from 3-0 down to draw at Elland Road on 14 December. Prior to that Cardiff comeback, Leeds had trailed on just four occasions in their opening 22 league games of the season.
- Leeds have conceded first in every match they have played in 2020. The last time they scored first was against Birmingham on 29 December, a contest they eventually won 5-4 with a stoppage-time own goal.
- They have failed to keep a clean sheet in 10 league games. In the 10 matches before that, they kept seven clean sheets and conceded just three times.
- Leeds have also now failed to score in four of their past five league matches, having hit a blank on just three occasions in the 26 games prior to that.
Nottingham Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi:
“It was a massive result and a massive performance against a fantastic team.
“Leeds made more mistakes than usual, but we disturbed them without the ball. My players played with fight and determination and they played so well today.
“The players made me so proud and happy. We have 15 more games and we play again in three days. This league is crazy and you must be ready each game.
“My goal was to finish the season, the last time a [Forest] manager did that was 11 or 12 seasons ago.”