Monk critical of players after Leeds United lose home opener

Kemar Roofe, who went close with a late header for Leeds United.

Kemar Roofe, who went close with a late header for Leeds United.

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Garry Monk is still looking for his first win as Leeds United head coach after a promising first half gave way to a poor second half and a 2-1 home defeat to Birmingham City.

United’s play was bright and they were unlucky to only be level at half-time, but despite creating a couple of late chances they were second best after the break as Birmingham stepped up their game.

With Marcus Antonsson looking sharp up front in his first start in a Leeds shirt and Alex Mowatt threading through some great passes from a roving left wing role Leeds started well in their first home game of the season.

Winger Hadi Sacko got in behind early from one of Mowatt’s passes only to miscontrol the ball. Antonsson then got into a good position only for a good tackle to deny him.

Antonsson was unlucky to hit the crossbar with a snap shot in the box after a corner had not been cleared. The Swede was in the action again on 11 minutes, almost onto another fine Mowatt through ball.

But completely against the play it was Birmingham who opened the scoring on 15 minutes after Mowatt was tackled in the opposition box and quick as a flash the visitors broke, putting Jacques Maghoma through. Charlie Taylor almost got back, but could not prevent the City winger from poking the ball past Rob Green.

Birmingham came within inches of a second when David Cotterill’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected just wide.

But Leeds equalised when one of Mowatt’s passes finally paid dividends, putting Sacko through. His shot from an angle seemed to lack power, but keeper Tomasz Kuszczak allowed the ball to squirm under his body into the net.

In a first half that remained lively new right-back Luke Ayling saw a 20-yard volley saved while at the other end David Davis went on a powerful run before shooting just over.

Birmingham began to close the Whites down better early in the second half and got a grip on the game they never really lost for the remainder.

Stephen Gleeson gave them early warning with a 20-yard shot that flashed wide before Birmingham regained the lead when United failed to deal with a free-kick put into the box and defender Michael Morrison was given space to lash a shot into the net.

Three games gone and three goals conceded from set pieces and this time it really hurt Leeds as they struggled to claw their way back a second time and their previous good passing went out of the window.

Maghoma went close to a second goal with a shot from distance after a good run and Clayton Donaldson turned well in the box only for his weak shot from a tough angle to be comfortably saved.

The closest United came to a goal was when a low corner was sliced towards his own goal by Gleeson, but Kuszczak saved at his near post.

Leeds did create a couple of late chances, but Antonsson’s shot on the turn was comfortably saved and sub Kemar Roofe - on for the disappointing Chris Wood - sent a near post header wide.

Seven minutes of added time gave United a chance to rescue a point, but they failed to create any more openings and were left to reflect on a disappointing opening home game.

Head coach Monk was unhappy with the way his side played in the second half and did not hold back in his criticism of his players.

He said; “The first half we looked very good, very dangerous, the final pass wasn’t quite there. We looked the team on the ascendancy.

“But it was very strange and frustrating. I don’t understand what happened in the second half.

“I’ve been told there’s been a bit of softness here in the past and I saw it in the second half. I told the boys that was unacceptable.

“Birmingham didn’t win the game, we lost it. To get that second half performance I won’t accept. In terms of heart I’m talking about, nothing tactically. We lacked desire.

“Even with that performance we shouldn’t have lost that game. We gave the game to them.

“That softness has to be eradicated.”

Match facts

Leeds United 1

(Sacko 27)

Birmingham City 2

(Maghoma 15, Morrison 55)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

EFL Championship

Attendance: 27,392

Leeds: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Bamba, Taylor, Sacko, Vieira, Hernandez (Dallas 86), Mowatt (Phillips 73), Antonsson, Wood (Roofe 60).

Birmingham: Kuszczak, Spector, Morrison, Shotton, Grounds, Cotterill, Davis (Tesche 66), Kieftenbeld, Gleeson (Robinson 90+4), Maghoma, Donaldson.

Referee: Paul Tierney.