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Colback double sinks 10-man Leeds

London (AFP) – A Jack Colback double inflicted Leeds United’s second straight defeat as the 10-man Championship leaders fell 4-2 at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

Leeds remain top despite back-to-back losses, holding a two-point lead over stuttering Norwich City as they bid to end a 15-year hiatus from the Premier League.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side have benefitted from a mini-bad patch from the Canaries, who struck late to force a 1-1 draw at Brentford after losing to Derby at the weekend.

Bielsa, whose club sides have a habit of faltering in the second half of a season, said his players had deserved something out of the match. 

“We didn’t lose the control of the game. I would say the opposite, that we could control the game even if we had one player less,” said the 63-year-old former Argentina and Chile national team coach.

“If you analyse the way the opponent scored the goals, they are not avoidable goals.

“We were a little bit fragile in defence but during the 90 minutes we did everything to win. The players did a very big effort.”

Leeds had shown plenty of character to come back from Colback’s fifth minute opener and Kalvin Phillips being sent off four minutes before half-time to lead 2-1 just after the hour mark thanks to goals from Jack Clarke and Ezgjan Alioski.

However, Colback’s second and two further goals from Daryl Murphy and Ben Osborn saw off the away side and handed a lifeline to Forest manager Aitor Karanka, whose future had been questioned going into the match after a five-game winless run.

“I apologise to my team mates and our amazing travelling fans for my red card today,” said Phillips on Twitter.

“I mistimed my tackle, I accept responsibility and I will make up for my mistake.”

Karanka dedicated the win to the Forest fans who chanted the former Middlesbrough coach’s name throughout the encounter.

“This can be a turning point for the confidence of the players,” said Karanka.

“When they are able to play in this way, when they have problems with injuries and you have a lot of games — the team spirit they showed was amazing.”

Norwich, who let slip a late 3-2 lead to lose 4-3 to Derby County on Saturday, looked to be heading for defeat at Griffin Park thanks to an early goal from Julien Jeanvier.

However they continued their habit of producing late goals through Timm Klose, who prodded home from a corner seven minutes from time. 

Sheffield United closed to just four points behind Leeds after leapfrogging West Bromwich Albion into third thanks to the Baggies going down 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers and the Blades’ thumping win 3-0 at Wigan.

Veteran striker Billy Sharp has been integral to United’s hunt for a return to the Premier League and the 32-year-old laid on Mark Duffy for his side’s second before sealing the points with his 17th league strike of the season.

Blackburn maintained a remarkable record of not losing a New Year’s Day fixture in 43 years with a much-needed victory over West Brom after three defeats on the bounce.

The hosts scored twice in five second-half minutes through Charlie Mulgrew and Bradley Dack before Jay Rodriguez pulled one back for West Brom from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute.

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