Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds 0: Brennan Johnson's stunning volley seals all three points as Reds continue march to safety | The SunFebruary 5, 2023
BRENNAN Johnson’s first half strike gave Nottingham Forest’s survival hopes yet another boost – but they owed their win to a superb debut from keeper Keylor Navas.
The three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid produced a string of excellent saves after Johnson had volleyed Forest ahead after 13 minutes.
Navas, 36, was a deadline day signing on-loan from PSG – and showed all of his undoubted experience to stop Leeds finding the net.
Forest are now unbeaten in five league games and Navas showed he will be key to Steve Cooper’s side staying up this season.
Cooper joked before the game Navas has been a European Champion more times than Forest – who won the trophy twice under Brian Clough.
But his class was there for all to see as Navas stood firm against Jesse Marsch’s side.
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The result lifted Forest into 13th spot – six points clear of the danger zone – after being bottom of the table earlier this season.
Both clubs brought in new signings in January, but named most of them on the bench.
Leeds’ club record signing Georginio Rutter – a £35million buy Hoffenheim – was left waiting for his first Premier League start.
And Forest named ex-Atletico Madrid defender Felipe and free agent Andre Ayew – the club’s 30th signing of the season – among the subs.
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Navas was called into action after just two minutes to keep out a close range effort from Luis Sinisterra who got the better of Willy Boly.
But it was Forest who took the lead after Pascal Struijk had been booked for a foul on Johnson.
And when the fit-again Morgan Gibbs-White swung in the free-kick, it was Struijk whose half-cleared header found Johnson who volleyed the ball straight back into the net.
Brazilian midfielder Danilo then went into ref Robert Jones’ book for a late challenge on Struijk.
But Leeds could have equalised moments later when Luke Ayling’s ball was collected by Wilfried Gnonto – the Italian fed the ball into Sinisterra’s path but he sliced wide under pressure from inside the six yard box.
Marsch was becoming more animated on the touchline after seeing his side squander two openings in the first half hour.
Leeds saw another chance go begging after 36 minutes and Navas came to Forest’s rescue again.
Again, Gnonto found space on the left and pulled the ball back for Patrick Bamford who messed up his shot – only for Ayling to unleash a shot which Navas kept out.
Navas was being kept busy – and he needed treatment after taking a kick to the head from Forest team-mate Boly as they both went to clear an Ayling header.
But the Costa Rican was soon back in the thick of it – and he pulled off another stop to deny Gnonto an equaliser.
Cooper clearly felt his side were being pulled part too easily and his half time changes saw Jack Colback and Serge Aurier – who had the job of trying to contain Gnonto – coming on.
Forest threatened to extend their lead after 54 minutes when Nico Williams raced clear from the halfway line but was closed down by Ayling – forcing the wide man to clip his shot wide of the far post.
Leeds brought on new signing, USA international Weston McKinnie – on loan from Juventus – two minutes later.
But Struijk was living dangerously after his first half booking – and risked a second yellow card when he barged Gibbs-White over. But ref Jones decided against another caution.
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Sub Sam Surridge had a chance to make it two for Forest – but he lifted his shot over the bar with 12 minutes left.
Leeds have now gone six games without a Premier League win – and are only outside the bottom three on goal difference following Everton's win against Arsenal.
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