'Best win of 2024': Leeds United boss Daniel Farke relieved and happy after victory over Stoke City

Daniel Farke admitted to being relieved as well as pleased as Leeds United took their unbeaten home record up to 20 matches this season with a just about deserved, but nervy 1-0 win over Stoke City.
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Dan James' 33rd minute goal clinched all three points on a night when the Whites dare not slip up with promotion rivals Leicester City and Ipswich both winning

United missed a number of chances to make it an easier night and had to withstand a strong comeback by their visitors to ensure a vital clean sheet, but manager Farke was pleased with the way his players dealt with the test.

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He said: “It's relief but also happiness and I'm pretty proud. It's the best win in 2024 for me.

Dan James takes on Stoke's Lynden Gooch in Leeds United's 1-0 win over Stoke City.Dan James takes on Stoke's Lynden Gooch in Leeds United's 1-0 win over Stoke City.
Dan James takes on Stoke's Lynden Gooch in Leeds United's 1-0 win over Stoke City.

“Everyone more or less expects us to win this home game. Sometimes with a spotlight game against Leicester everyone accepts a draw.

“We didn't have a dip in form, but a dip in results if you can call it that at Huddersfield and then the next game is only two-and-a-half days later, against a side fighting with everything they've got against relegation.

“Should be an easy win, feels like that a bit in the stadium, the atmosphere in the stadium is a bit like going for a cup of tea and a slice of cake instead of this explosion with everyone on it.

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“I was pretty happy with the first half, we needed 15, 20 minutes of our dominance to create chances, scored just one and could have got more goals.

“Second half we opted too much to wait for transition moments. Whenever we had the ball we didn't control the game, we were too greedy to go for the next attack.

“It was a bit like a basketball game and we had by far the better chances, two or three times we have to play the final ball a bit better. If you don't score the second it's a bit nervy, you allow the opponent to have half chances or good shooting positions.

“We returned with a clean sheet and I'm pretty happy. It was not our best second half but this hard-fought win in the end is what brings you to a top position by the end of the season.”

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Leeds took their time to get going with Stoke having the first shot as Josh Laurent's effort was comfortably saved by Illan Meslier.

The only sniff of an early goal for the hosts was when James chased down a back pass and almost got to the ball ahead of keeper Daniel Iversen.

He was sent sprawling in his challenge for the ball, but referee Oliver Langford thought Iversen got enough of the ball as he did not award a penalty.

The visitors again showed they had a threat as Ki-Jana Hoever headed over from a free-kick with Meslier coming for the ball but left in no man's land as he did not get to it.

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It was looking like being a tricky night for the Whites, but then suddenly they turned on the football the fans have come to enjoy this season in a red hot 11 minute spell that saw them have seven efforts on goal, culminating in them opening the scoring.

First, Sam Byram – back in at left-back – saw a header under pressure easily saved in the 22nd minute then Patrick Bamford raced on to Georginio Rutter's pass and fired in a great angled shot that was equally impressively saved by Iversen.

Less than a minute later Rutter had a good chance only to send a header over and with Leeds swarming forward again James showed fantastic pace to get into the box only to see Iversen make another fine stop with his legs.

James was found free in the area by Glen Kamara, but Iversen again saved well.

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Byram was next to get in behind the Stoke defence and his great cross with the outside of his foot was only just intercepted with James coming in for what would have been a tap-in.

Crysencio Summerville then saw his shot from the edge of the box blocked before the goal that had to come did in the 33rd minute. Ruttter's spin and pass sent James running and the Welsh international worked his way into space to send in a low shot that was deflected past Iversen into the net.

Lewis Baker had a long range strike tipped over by Meslier as Stoke briefly looked to hit back, but United created another good chance before half-time when a clever free-kick saw the ball played into Bamford when the visitors were expecting a shot. His turn allowed him to get a shot in, but a deflection made it an easy save for the keeper.

The only problem for Leeds was that they had not killed the game off and their opponents gave it a real go after the break, when they were better team for large parts.

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James did have a shot deflected wide, but it turned nervy as City enjoyed a strong 10-minute spell that saw Baker, Tyrese Campbell and Hoever have shots saved and Hoever also shot wide.

Home sub Mateo Joseph almost made a big impact when he raced ono a long punt forward and rounded Iversen only to see his shot cleared off the line by Ben Wilmot.

Summerville was almost in moments later, but Stoke scrambled the ball clear. United were finally seen as an attacking force again and Joseph fired in a well struck angled shot that saw the ball flash just wide.

Stoke's efforts were not helped when they went down to 10 men with Ben Pearson sent-off for a second bookable offence, blocking off James after earlier being booked for petulance.

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They still gave it a go, although they were relieved when James went clean through only to see his shot again saved by the impressive Iversen, the ball appearing to hit his face.

The very last action of the game saw Stoke create another half-chance, but Laurent's shot from the edge of he box was saved low down by a grateful Meslier.

(James 33)

Tuesday, March 5

Sky Bet Championship

Attendance: 36,118

Leeds: Meslier; Roberts, Rodon, Ampadu, Byram (Firpo 87); Gruev, Kamara (Gray 87); James, Rutter (Piroe 71), Summerville (Gnonto 79); Bamford (Joseph 71).

Stoke: Iversen; Hoever, Rose, Wilmot, Gooch; Burger (Pearson 54), Baker (Cundle 84); Manhoef (Haksabanovic 78), Laurent, Junho (Vidigal 78); Ennis (Campbell 54).

Referee: Oliver Langford.