Leeds United's players celebrate a goal by Georginio Rutter. Alamy Stock Photo
almost there

Leeds crush Norwich in second-leg play-off to close in on Premier League return

Daniel Farke’s side are now just one win away from climbing back up to the top flight.

LEEDS STAYED ON course for an immediate return to the Premier League after sweeping Norwich aside 4-0 in the second leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.

Daniel Farke’s side, who staggered into the play-offs after winning just one of their last six games of the regular season, rediscovered top form to blow Norwich away with three goals in the first half.

Ilia Gruev’s clever free-kick, Joel Piroe’s header and Georginio Rutter’s emphatic far-post finish put Leeds in complete control at the interval and Crysencio Summerville added a fourth goal in the second half.

Leeds missed out on automatic promotion after their dismal run-in, but now have the chance to lay their play-off ghost against either Southampton or West Brom in the Wembley final on May 26.

Leeds fans, whose side have failed to win promotion via the play-offs in five previous attempts, waved scarves before kick-off to turn the stadium into four walls of white and their team responded by making a flying start.

Summerville crashed an early shot over the crossbar before Gruev gave them a seventh minute lead with a brilliant first Leeds goal in his 34th appearance for the club.

Leeds were awarded a foul 25 yards out and after spotting Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn out of position, the quick-thinking Bulgaria midfielder curled a left-footed free-kick inside the near post.

Leeds were swept along by the wave of white from the terraces and, with back-pedalling Norwich pulled out of shape, the home side raced into a two-goal lead in the 20th minute.

Willy Gnonto charged down the right and his deep cross was headed home by the unmarked Piroe for his 16th goal of the season in all competitions.

Norwich were gifted a chance to stem the tide two minutes later when Ethan Ampadu fluffed his challenge on Josh Sargent, leaving the Norwich striker a clear run on goal, but his dinked effort was superbly saved by Illan Meslier.

After that let-off, Leeds were relentless. Piroe burst clear down the left far too easily and although Summerville slipped in his bid to latch on to the cross, the ball broke for Rutter, who lashed his far-post finish into the roof of the net.

Rutter was denied a second by Dimitrios Giannoulis’ goal-line block in first-half stoppage time, with Norwich relieved to get off at the interval just three goals down.

It should have been 4-0 shortly after the restart when Piroe fired a first-time effort from in front of goal straight at Gunn, who saved again from both Summerville and Piroe soon after.

Leeds did not take their foot off the gas and were rewarded with a fourth goal through Summerville’s low finish from Junior Firpo’s cut-back, after Gunn had parried Gnonto’s effort.

Rutter was given a standing ovation when replaced by Connor Roberts in the 74th minute, while for Norwich, who mustered just one shot on target, it was a night to forget.

– © AFP 2024

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