Javi Gracia wants to get the balance right and ensure Leeds win survival battle

Leeds climbed out of the bottom three after winning head coach Javi Gracia's first game in charge (Tim Goode/PA)
Mark Walker, PA

Javi Gracia explained how he intends to keep Leeds in the Premier League after his winning start as head coach against Southampton.

Junior Firpo’s solitary second-half strike clinched Leeds a 1-0 victory in a crunch relegation clash and lifted them out of the bottom three.

Firpo’s first top-flight goal for the Whites raised the roof at Elland Road and ensured they avoided a new club record of 11 Premier League games without a win.

Former Watford boss Gracia, installed as Jesse Marsch’s permanent replacement on Tuesday, said: “I like offensive play. I would like to create a lot of chances.

“But when I came here, when I saw not only the games, the statistics as well, I thought it will be better for the team to find a good balance – defending and attacking – and today we got a clean sheet. I think this is the best way to grow.

“We prepared as much as possible, trying to be solid, to be compact, working the game and waiting for our moment. I think we did it.”

Marsch’s full-throttle game plan, placing the emphasis on a swarming attack, proved unsuccessful and he was sacked after just less than a year in charge earlier this month.

Leeds were too easily breached, whether in transition or from set pieces, under the American and Gracia, who has also had spells in charge of Malaga, and Valencia, was delighted his side did not concede.

“I think we found a good balance to defend well, to get a clean sheet and in the other way to be offensive in the way we could,” the 52-year-old Spaniard added.

“We tried to create more chances. I think nobody created many chances, but it was the game we wanted and the result was good for us.”

Next up for Leeds is a fifth-round FA Cup tie at Fulham on Tuesday before they resume their relegation fight at Chelsea on Saturday.

Southampton remain bottom of the table, now three points adrift, after failing to build on their morale-boosting win at Chelsea in their previous match.

Ruben Selles was confirmed as head coach until the end of the season 24 hours before their trip to Elland Road and his players responded with another dogged display in a narrow defeat.

But Saints winger Mohamed Elyounoussi felt they fell way short of the standards they had set at Stamford Bridge.

Elyounoussi told the club’s official website: “It was a tough game. We were not near good enough, not even close to how we performed last week.

“We were lacking the aggression and the intensity we had last week. It’s a tough one to take, for the boys, for everyone who loves the club.

“There’s plenty more games to play. Every game is like a cup final for us. We lost today but there’s plenty more to come.”