Graham Smyth's Verdict: If God was in an historic result for Leeds United against Birmingham City, the devil was in the details

Kalvin Phillips took a little piece of Leeds United history home with him after the winner in the centenary matchKalvin Phillips took a little piece of Leeds United history home with him after the winner in the centenary match
Kalvin Phillips took a little piece of Leeds United history home with him after the winner in the centenary match | jpimedia
The finer details of Leeds United's 1-0 win at home to Birmingham City will be forgotten in time and the history books will record the only two things that mattered - the result and the goalscorer.

It was fitting that the man who put the ball in the Blues net, in a game attended by some of the greatest players in the club's history, was a lifelong United fan. If anyone should have taken that little piece of history, the first goal of Leeds United's second century, it was Kalvin Phillips. He wasn't the best performer in Marcelo Bielsa's team, Gjanni Alioski played like a man possessed for 93 minutes, but Phillips is Leeds to the bone and has the potential to write his name on the list of club legends.

After the game Bielsa credited God himself for putting things in the right place - Phillips could have left the club in the summer for Premier League money, yet the club rejected a £20m-plus bid and the midfielder was more than happy to stay - but divine intervention wasn't in play when the winner came, it was the things Bielsa himself has put in the right place.

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Phillips has become a player of incredible influence for his hometown club, dominating the midfield and making life difficult for each and every opponent, growing in confidence and reputation under Bielsa's watchful eye and demanding managerial methods. The 23-year-old, normally found just in front of the back four, was off up the pitch on 65 minutes, snapping at heels and hunting the ball in the Birmingham half, bringing pressure that cracked the Blues' resolution. Jack Harrison, another to have enjoyed the head coach's backing even when others have had their doubts, took over, taking the ball to the edge of the area where he might have liked to play in Eddie Nketiah, had the striker not strayed offside. Instead, Phillips was on the winger's shoulder to receive the ball and fire it past Lee Camp at the Kop end.

What happened after that scarcely mattered to the Leeds fans in attendance. The headlines were written. Having missed out on Thursday's centenary celebrations through illness, Phillips went and created some of his own.

If the good Lord was in the all-important moment will go down in history, the devil was in the details. Those details, the continued struggle to put teams to bed and turn dominance into goals, the nerves felt around Elland Road with a slender lead heading into stoppage time, those are what will occupy the mind of Bielsa and continue to prey upon the anxiety of the Leeds support.

It was, after the break at least, a patchy performance from the men in white.

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There was no hint of after the Lord Mayor's show syndrome in the first half, Leeds quick out of the blocks following the international break, the pre-game pyrotechnics acting as a starter pistol.

The noise that greeted a plethora of United greats, who were paraded onto the Elland Road pitch as part of the centenary pomp, had swelled to deafening levels by the time the current squad walked out in white tracksuits, a giant display of the number 100 their backdrop. It looked and sounded like a game that meant something and the Leeds players treated it as such in the opening minutes, white shirts pouring forward, forcing turnovers, looking to create.

There was menace, there was promise but there was no end product.

Patrick Bamford spurned an opportunity to pick out team-mates in space in the box, having done all the hard work in winning the ball, before Gjanni Alioski tested Lee Camp from 20 yards. Leeds, as they have been on all-too frequent occasions this season, were all bark but no bite. They hounded Birmingham, corralled Pep Clotet's men into their own half, won the ball and produced some pretty link-up play, Alioski and Mateusz Klich combining for a particularly eye-catching passage of play.

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When the big chance of the half came and went begging, that uneasy feeling that settles over Elland Road when Leeds are on top but not scoring, threatened to descend once more and spoil the birthday party. Jack Harrison pinged a ball over the top for Bamford and he opted not to shoot but to backheel it to Helder Costa, the Portuguese having a shot that was blocked, Stuart Dallas picking up the rebound and playing a one-two with Klich before sending a follow up effort straight at Camp.

Leeds won corners and free-kicks that Phillips swerved and hammered into the penalty area and Birmingham survived them all, reaching the interval with their clean sheet intact.

And they came out to play in the second half, seizing on what Bielsa later said was doubt in the home side's demeanour and play, finally enjoying some time in the Leeds' half of the pitch and coming close through Fran Villalba's long-range shot. Confidence appeared to be growing in the away ranks, Álvaro Giménez becoming more of an influence and firing a couple of warning shots across the home bows.

That confidence might well have been their undoing, or, as Clotet graciously pointed out in his post-match inquest, Leeds showcased their ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye, to devastating, match-winning effect. Phillips pressed, Harrison benefited and countered, Phillips finished.

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Not for the first time this season, a goal had Elland Road and the opposition rocking.

Nketiah, on for Bamford at the break to much acclaim yet little effect, raced onto a through ball from fellow substitute Tyler Roberts and shot wide.

Alioski might have capped a fine performance with a deserved goal but could only volley straight at Camp and Harrison too was denied by the 35-year-old.

It wasn't the first time this season that an opponent halted Leeds' momentum and made Elland Road a very nervous place with a late rally, when Birmingham produced a late surge. It wouldn't have been very Leeds United to do it the easy way, after all.

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Jude Bellingham tested Kiko Casilla from range, the Spaniard equal to it. He did everything asked of him throughout but came to the fore in the latter stages, which included a customary dash from his penalty area to clear danger out on the touchline. Birmingham were Leeds-like in their inability to make possession, territory and chances count.

This game ended 1-0 but Bielsa's quest for a complete 90-minute performance will go on.

The head coach was unhappy with the way in which his team finished the game, on the back foot, ceding ground and possession to the Blues.

Ultimately it did not cost them, but it is a habit they must break if Phillips' team-mates are to follow his lead and snatch a piece of Leeds United history of their own.