Birmingham maintained their unbeaten record in the Premiership to give Peter Reid another cheerless day at Elland Road, although the Leeds manager was left feeling that the scoreline did not reflect his side's performance.
The match turned on a 78th-minute penalty awarded against the unfortunate Jose Roque Junior, the Brazilian defender who had endured a nightmare Premiership debut at Leicester last week. Roque Junior was sent off after bringing down Mikaël Forssell, and Paul Robinson made a brilliant save to prevent David Dunn scoring from the spot. However, on the advice of his assistant, the referee, Dermot Gallagher, ordered the kick to be retaken, and Robbie Savage then scored. Forssell slipped through a stunned and short-handed Leeds defence to add a second goal six minutes later.
Still smarting from their 4-0 humbling at Leicester, Leeds had needed a convincing performance to erase doubts over the effectiveness of Reid's new-look side. The manager could at least console himself on that score. "The players are very disappointed about both goals, but I'm not going to be drawn into commenting on a referee's decisions," he said. "They have a difficult job ,and the more managers complain about things the more pressure is on them.
"But I feel a lot better than I did after the Leicester game. We were panicking there, but today we were a lot more solid and overall we were the better side. Sometimes you don't get back what you put into a game, and this was one of those days."
Reid was pleased in particular with Roque Junior, the World Cup-winning centre-back on loan from Milan, who had been painfully exposed at Leicester. The manager kept faith, adamant that the 27-year-old has more than enough ability and intelligence to adapt to the Premiership, and felt vindicated. "I thought he was magnificent," Reid said. He had the same view of Salomon Olembe, the combative Cameroonian who replaced a sick Seth Johnson, instantly gaining the approval of the crowd with a performance in midfield that combined inventiveness with graft.
But Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, has a well-organised defence in which Matthew Upson and Kenny Cunningham operate well together, and an attack that promises to provide some mouthwatering moments now that Christophe Dugarry has recovered from a knee operation to partner Forssell. They remain unbeaten, and Reid acknowledged that they are a side against whom chances must be taken. Leeds squandered theirs.
The first opportunity came 34 minutes into the first half, when a clever touch and pass by Olembe released Lamine Sakho on the left. The winger's low cross ran to Jermaine Pennant, who would at least have tested Maik Taylor but for a poor first touch. Leeds merited a goal, and Birmingham's resolve seemed about to crack when Alan Smith, feeding off Mark Viduka's downward header, turned Cunningham, but his left-foot shot went straight at the goalkeeper.
Then came the twice-taken penalty, and the game was up. Bruce revealed that he had not watched it. "I know managers always say they didn't see an incident, but I genuinely was looking away," he said. "I haven't watched us take a penalty since the play-off final in Cardiff in 2002."
Leeds United 0 Birmingham City 2
Savage pen 79, Forssell 84
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 34,305Reuse content