Stuart Dallas reflects on Leeds United's emotional rollercoaster at Birmingham City and 'questions answered' by 'courageous' Whites
STUART DALLAS admitted “emotions were all over the place” as Leeds United produced another Christmas miracle to somehow record a 5-4 victory at Sunday’s Championship hosts Birmingham City.
In doing so, the Northern Ireland international said his Whites had "answered questions" posed by anyone suggesting talk of a Leeds United blip.
One year and one week after United had come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at Birmingham’s arch rivals Aston Villa in second-half stoppage time, United again left it late to settle a nine-goal thriller through a Wes Harding own goal in the 95th minute.
Leeds had raced into a 2-0 advantage inside 21 minutes through strikes from Helder Costa and Jack Harrison but Birmingham fought back to level at 2-2 through Jude Bellingham and Lukas Jutkiewicz and then twice more battled back to draw all square.
Luke Ayling’s stunning strike put United back ahead in the 69th minute but Jeremie Bela headed home an equaliser with seven minutes left.
Incredibly, Dallas quickly put United back ahead at 4-3 just 60 seconds later only for Jutkiewicz to head home his second and make it 4-4 in the first minute of second half stoppage time.
But amazingly United still weren’t done and Ayling’s fierce cross was turned home by Birmingham defender Harding in the fifth minute of added time to make even last year’s epic win at Villa Park seem tame.
The stunning victory also sent United to the top of the Championship thanks to Middlesbrough’s 2-0 win at United’s New Year’s Day hosts West Brom and Dallas saluted his side for answering any critics after taking two points from their last three games.
“It’s definitely one of the craziest games I have been involved in,” said Dallas.
“There was so much emotion. You go from 2-0 up and we are doing really well to come back to two each and you have to really step up and grind it out.
“You get ahead, you are pegged back, you go ahead again and you think that’s it or you hope that’s it and they have scored a good goal from a great ball in.
“Again, emotions are all over the place and we showed great courage and character to go up the pitch and get a winner.
“It’s definitely one of the craziest games I’ve seen. I am glad I was playing in it rather than watching it to be honest. I think the crowd have got their money’s worth.”
Asked just how important the victory would prove after United’s supposed recent blip, Dallas said: “I don’t think it was a blip. People look at it as a blip because we had won seven games in a row.
“We drew two games, we lost one and we got a good point against Preston on Boxing Day.
“We couldn’t win the game but we made sure we didn’t lose it and we have come here with probably a bit of pressure on us.
“We have stood up and possibly answered a few questions and we are glad we have won the game.”
As well as sending Leeds to the top of the division, the sensational victory more importantly also strengthened United’s cushion in the automatic promotion places with the Whites now nine points ahead of third-placed Fulham.
Fifth-placed Nottingham Forest would move third and to within eight points of Leeds if winning their game in hand.
United looked destined to leave with just a point after Jutkiewicz’s 91st-minute equaliser but Dallas said his men would never have been satisfied leaving with a point.
“I think that speaks volumes about this team and this group of players that we have,” said the Northern Ireland international.
“We want to win every game that we play in, we are not happy coming away here otherwise and that’s no disrespect to Birmingham. They are a good side.
“But we want to win every game that we play in and we knew that if we kept going we would get chances.
“We have got a bit of luck at the end with the own goal but we will take that.”
“It was obviously a good game. It was a bit scrappy at times.
“We had a great start in the game going two goals ahead and they’ve got themselves back into it.
“The crowd got behind them and they made it very difficult for us.
“They started the second half well and obviously got the equaliser and we showed a lot of character today when things were going against us.
“We really stood up and thankfully we were able to come out winners in the end.”