Nottingham Forest took another step towards playing Premier League football after inflicting a 2-0 defeat on promotion rivals Leeds United.
A close-fought game was decided in the latter stages of each half, with Sammy Ameobi and Tyler Walker ending up on the scoresheet.
For the visitors, it was another humbling defeat that is certain to pour more doubt on their own aspirations of escaping England’s second division.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.
Winner: Sammy Ameobi
You never know what you’re going to get with Sammy Ameobi, who consistently bamboozled Leeds’ defenders and himself. That unpredictability came in handy when he put the hosts in front just after the half-hour mark. Kiko Casilla, manning the visitors goal, assumed he was going to put in a cross, but his ‘cross’ turned into a ferocious shot that flew in.
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) February 8, 2020
Not the most prolific of strikers, this was only Ameobi’s third league goal of the campaign, having last struck for Forest in early October (a 2-1 win at Luton Town). Since then, he’s been more likely to create: five assists from 16 appearances. That creative streak, though, was absent today as he wouldn’t produce one single goalscoring opportunity. But his manager won’t be complaining.
Loser: Kiko Casilla
Who’d be a goalkeeper? As the famed intellect Eduardo Galeano wrote in his best-selling Football in Sun and Shadow he is “the first to pay – it is always the keeper’s fault’. At the City Ground this evening, there’s no doubt Casilla in the Leeds goal should have done better regarding Ameobi’s opener.
His instinct, when seeing the angle Ameobi was coming from, was to expect the former Newcastle United forward would be drilling the ball across, hence leaving the right side of his goal exposed.
This was a fateful mistake, however. A first clean sheet since October 2019, ten games ago, has once again bypassed the much-maligned Spanish shot-stopper who could only stand and watch Walker — five minutes after coming on — tap in for Forest’s second deep into stoppage time.
Winner: Sabri Lamouchi
We've said it before and we'll say it again…
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) February 8, 2020
Nottingham Forest are certainly in the mix for automatic promotion. It’s what their passionate fanbase have desired since experiencing the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League two decades ago. From that point forward, to say they’ve gone through managers is an understatement. The incumbent coach, though, seemed exactly what they have been waiting for.
Sabri Lamouchi, who formerly guided Rennes, joined last summer but signed a one-year contract that expires at season’s end. It remains to be seen whether he commits before returning top-flight football to the City Ground, but his recent work has been outstanding, Forest were 12 points behind Leeds before the Boxing Day fixtures. After collecting six wins (including today’s) from nine games played, they are now a point behind the club who presently occupy the final automatic promotion spot.
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Loser: Marcelo Bielsa
By contrast, the Peacocks are going the other direction. The existence of the fabled ‘Bielsa burnout’ has long been debated, but following last season and recent events it’s growing difficult to argue that Leeds are not experiencing such phenomena.
After collecting 27 points from 33 available (eight wins and three draws from 11 played) between October and December it seemed promotion was inevitable. That is no longer the case. One win from their last six played, including four defeats, will no doubt curb any such dreams.
The collapse is almost complete. Leeds are now a three-goal swing away from being out of the automatic promotion spots. West Brom can extend their lead to four points, if they win at Millwall on Sunday, but this result leaves no fewer than four clubs breathing down Leeds’ necks. If they are not too careful their mission to stage a Premier League return will extend into a 16th year.
Fulham began the year with a humbling 1-2 loss at home against Reading, their fourth across seven matches since December 2019 began, which subsequently left them in the play-off spots but 10 points adrift of pacesetters Leeds and West Brom.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) February 8, 2020
Fast-forward to early February and the Londoners – having picked up four wins across five Championship outings (13 points accumulated from 15 available) – find themselves level on points with Leeds and one behind West Brom, who have a game in hand.
Loser: Patrick Bamford
A recent purple patch saw Patrick Bamford bag six goals in eight matches, which coincided with Leeds registering six consecutive league wins. That period enabled Bielsa’s men to wrestle control of the Championship table, but since then it’s been two victories, with Bamford scoring twice in six outings.
He was non-existent today, another poor showing on the road for the ex-Chelsea man, who has now managed two goals in his last 12 games away from Elland Road. At times seeming isolated, Bamford touched the ball on 22 occasions. This was the fewest by any player in white that started, while he produced just one shot (off target).