Leeds star admits recent spell has been the ‘toughest’ of his career

Junior Firpo Leeds

Leeds defender Junior Firpo admitted that the past few weeks have been among the “toughest” of his career so far, following his match-winning heroics against Southampton at the weekend.

The marauding fullback surged forward and exchanged passes with Jack Harrison before knocking the ball past Saints’ keeper Gavin Bazunu in the 77th-minute of the Yorkshiremen’s crucial 1-0 victory on Saturday.

Firpo’s winner allowed new Leeds boss Javi Gracia to start his tenure in style with a win and three points the hosts secured at Elland Road allowed them to climb out of the Premier League’s bottoms three.

Firpo breaks duck for Leeds

Firpo’s strike on Saturday was his first goal for Leeds and the 26-year-old former Barcelona star was understandably thrilled with his effort. After full-time, when asked if the goal ranked among the most important he’s ever scored, Firpo said:

“Yes, I think so [biggest goal of his career]. We don’t deserve to be here. We were the better team and happily, I scored. The most-frustrating thing is that we played well in the first half but didn’t score.

“But we defended well, I scored and then we managed the game really well. The last few weeks have probably been the toughest of my career. But we have one of the best dressing rooms, and we deserve to be in the Premier League.”

Firpo moved from La Liga giants Barcelona to Leeds in the summer of 2021 for a fee believed to be in the region of €15m. His arrival was considered a coup at the time, though Firpo has found himself on the periphery of things this season, making just eight league appearances overall.

Leeds in battle for top flight survival

Leeds snapped a lengthy run of ten games without a win with their timely victory over Southampton on Saturday, though they had been playing with real energy under Jesse Marsch in the run up to the American manager’s recent sacking.

However, Javi Gracia became the first non-caretaker Leeds manager or head coach to win his opening league game with a clean sheet since Dennis Wise did similar all the way back in August 2006 (2-0 v Southend).

With 14 Premier League fixtures still to contest, the battle to beat the drop is certain to contain another glut of dramatic twists and turns, though Gracia’s positive first steps should be a lift to everyone at the club.

The next couple of weeks should provide Gracia and his players with a major test of their mettle. Leeds are looking down the barrel of three away matches in their next four games, including trips to London to face Chelsea and Arsenal.

A trio of home games follows after that against Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and Liverpool, though the final matches of the Whites’ run-in look particularly tough.

Leeds finish their Premier League campaign with a quartet of daunting tasks, starting with a visit to The Etihad Stadium to face title-chasing City. After that, they host top four hopefuls Newcastle, before they travel south to take on West Ham. A final day date with Tottenham at Elland Road could also prove just as awkward.

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