Former Leeds United star Pontus Jansson faces very different task to yesteryear upon second Brentford visit to Elland Road
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But nearly four years ago Jansson was helping Leeds to keep Brentford out, the centre-back playing a key role as United beat the Bees 1-0 at Elland Road for former boss Paul Heckingbottom’s first win in charge in February 2018.
Heckingbottom had been appointed earlier that month after United had sacked Thomas Christiansen with the Whites 10th in the Championship table following a 4-1 defeat at home to Cardiff City on Saturday February 3.
Heckingbottom’s tenure began with a 2-1 defeat at his former side, Sheffield United, Leeds then picking up successive 2-2 draws at home to Bristol City and away at Derby County.
In Heckingbottom’s fourth game in charge, Leeds finally ended 10 games without a win by swatting aside the Bees – but it proved one of only four victories in charge for Heckingbottom, whose men limped to a 13th-placed finish.
Brentford, meanwhile, were in just their fourth season back in the second tier following their promotion as League One runners-up in 2014 under Mark Warburton, Adam Forshaw part of the promotion-winning Bees side.
Three-and-a-half years on, Forshaw was one month into a new adventure with Leeds but missed the February 2018 clash against his former side as his wife went into labour.
By now, Dean Smith was in charge of Brentford, who still faced another of their former players at Elland Road in Stuart Dallas.
Dallas, Whites captain Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips are the only players still with Leeds who lined up in the fixture of February 2018, although the recently-departed Gaetano Berardi and Gjanni Alioski also started.
As well as Jansson, the rest of the Leeds XI consisted of Felix Wiedwald, Vurnon Anita, Eunan O’Kane, Samu Saiz and Pierre-Michel Lasogga, the bench formed of Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Matthew Pennington, Tyler Denton, Pawel Cibicki, Ronaldo Vieira, Hadi Sacko and Caleb Ekuban.
Yet the contest was decided by a centre-back as Cooper struck in the 31st minute for the only goal of the game – and his first strike for two-and-a-half years.
Brentford began brightly and Wiedwald was forced into producing a fine save to deny John Egan’s strike in front of 28,428 fans at Elland Road.
A lovely chipped through ball from Romaine Sawyers then played in Florian Jozefzoon, but the forward eventually scooped his effort over the bar.
Instead, Leeds bagged the only goal of the game just after the half-hour mark as Alioski’s free kick from the left touchline was met by a clever glancing header by Cooper, the ball flying into the bottom right corner and past the diving Darren Bentley.
Leeds then went close to bagging a second after the break as a lovely pass from Sáiz released Lasogga, who was denied a fine solo goal when his strike was cleared off the line by Ryan Woods.
Alioski was also denied a penalty after going down under a challenge from Yoann Barbet, but one goal proved enough.
“It’s good to have the first win, it is a reward for the hard work of the players,” said Whites boss Heckingbottom.
“There are lots of positives to take from the performance. Lots of organisation goes into it, and to be successful in this league you have to be able to defend and stop teams as well as hurt teams.
“We had chances to get the second and close the game out and that is an area where we will need to be better."
United, though, suffered 3-0 defeats in their next two games, Patrick Bamford bagging a hat-trick for Middlesbrough as the Whites were blitzed 3-0 at the Riverside in their next fixture on a freezing Friday night at the start of March.
Four months later, Bamford was signing for Leeds, by then managed by a world-renowned coach who was set to revolutionise the Whites.
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Thank you Laura Collins