Leeds dominate Norwich 4-0 in first half to secure spot in Championship play-off final, leaving Norwich stunned and disappointed.

Leeds dominate Norwich 4-0 in first half to secure spot in Championship play-off final, leaving Norwich stunned and disappointed.

Leeds are on their way to Wembley, they sang on the streets outside Elland Road, and how gloriously emphatic that pre-match promise was fulfilled.

Nights at this raucous old venue can often be fraught and filled with angst but how different this proved to be. A white blizzard buried Norwich under an avalanche of goals and now Yorkshire’s pre-eminent club will go back to the national stadium for the first time since 2008.

Seeing them play like this, you could not help but feel they really should have automatically returned to the top flight rather than subjecting themselves to the jeopardy of the play-offs; this, though, is how it must be and how they rose to the challenge.

Perhaps the biggest compliment you could pay Leeds was that they looked like a Premier League side, as they ruthlessly ripped Norwich apart. West Brom or Southampton await on May 26 and neither of them will feel comfortable about trying to subdue Daniel Farke’s men.

The last time Leeds were on the cusp of promotion, during those bleak pandemic days four years ago, they relied on 12 people in the Directors Box to generate an atmosphere. There would be no such problem this time, with every seat taken, every voice raised and every arm twirling a scarf.

Georginio Rutter made the tie all but safe when he converted to make it 3-0 before the break

Elland Road was in fine voice as they witness their side claim their first home play-off win since 1987

Elland Road was in fine voice as they witness their side claim their first home play-off win since 1987

Norwich missed a golden opportunity and were made to pay by Daniel Farke's ruthless side

Norwich missed a golden opportunity and were made to pay by Daniel Farke’s ruthless side

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What an occasion the home fans made it and how their team responded. You sometimes wonder in a stadium as emotional as Elland Road whether the occasion will be too much for the home players but that simply wasn’t the case. Where Leeds went into overdrive, Norwich melted in this furnace.

The onslaught began in the seventh minute. There didn’t seem to be much potential for danger when Leeds were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out but Ilia Gruev, their Bulgarian midfielder, saw things differently and caught Norwich keeper Angus Gunn unawares.

As his shot crept it inside the post, the ball hitting the back of the net was like a detonator had been pressed. Boom! An explosion of noise, a sea of jubilation. Such was the mania, it almost felt as if this was a golden goal. Would Leeds let this slip? No chance.

Soon, their lead would be doubled. Willy Gnoto dashed down the right and looped a cross to the back post in the 20th minute, leaving Gunn unsure whether to stick or twist. Through the uncertainty, Joe Piroe arrived and headed in.

Perhaps the situation would have changed had Norwich provided an immediate riposte but, in the 22nd minute, their striker Josh Sargent couldn’t provide a finish when Ashley sent him through. He tried to dink a chip over Ilan Meslier but Leeds’s keeper stood tall and saved.

How crucial it proved to be. David Wagner tried to lift his players, imploring them to stand firm, but the dam burst before half-time and, effectively, left them submerged. Leeds broke down the left, Piroe clipped a ball into Crysencio Summerville and he helped it on to Georgino Rutter.

His finish was emphatic, crashing in off the underside of the bar, and it looked one blow too many for Norwich. All Leeds had to do from here was manage the situation, retain their discipline, and the first part of the mission – reaching Wembley – would be achieved.

Gruev got Leeds off to the perfect start with a free-kick that caught out Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn

Gruev got Leeds off to the perfect start with a free-kick that caught out Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn

Daniel Farke advanced to the play-off final at the expense of his former side

Daniel Farke advanced to the play-off final at the expense of his former side

Gruev could have killed the contest off 30 seconds into the second period but his shot was saved by Gunn at point blank range. No matter. Summerville, outstanding from first whistle to last, would put the gloss on things, ramming home from 10 yards after good work by Junior Firpo.

Back, then, they go to Wembley. The last time Leeds won there, Eric Cantona scored a hat-trick in the 1992 Charity Shield against Liverpool. You sense the team of 2024 are ready to correct that anomaly.

 

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