Javi Gracia enjoys ‘special’ first game as Leeds beat Southampton
Leeds boss Javi Gracia described his side’s 1-0 home win against Southampton in his first game in charge as “something really special”.
Junior Firpo’s second-half strike halted Leeds’ 10-game winless run in the Premier League and lifted them out of the bottom three.
Former Watford, Malaga and Valencia boss Gracia was delighted with his winning start after being appointed as Jesse March’s permanent replacement on Tuesday.
The 52-year-old Spaniard said: “(I’m) very happy because when I came I could feel all the people around the club really needed a good result.
“Today I think is good for the confidence of all of us. We know it’s only one step, but for us in this moment it’s an important step.”
Leeds slipped into the bottom three for the first time this season after a poor display in a 1-0 defeat at Everton last week.
Firpo’s first top-flight goal for Leeds, fired low under Southampton goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in the 77th minute, clinched them their first league win since early November.
“I think this win is good for the confidence of the players, in the work we are going to do together and the confidence of all the supporters in the team,” Gracia said.
“We know it’s only one win, only three points, but it’s something really special for us.”
Home fans in a crowd of 36,641 played their part as Leeds finally found the breakthrough against dogged opponents, who remain bottom despite being buoyed by victory at Chelsea the previous week.
When asked about the atmosphere at Elland Road, Gracia added: “Really special. I knew it because I could see before coming, but to live inside is different.
“I’m very optimistic because with one day we play like today, next week we are going to play much better.”
Southampton confirmed interim boss Ruben Selles as permanent manager until the end of the season this week after recently sacking Nathan Jones.
The Saints responded with a morale-boosting 1-0 win at Chelsea in Selles’ first game in charge before slipping to this 16th league defeat of the season.
It was the 10th time they have lost a league game by one goal and Selles insisted his side were playing at “Premier League level”.
The 39-year-old said: “For me that shows we are there. We are there in every game and we have the possibility to perform and win the game.
“We are not a team that is conceding a lot and is out of the game and therefore not competing.
“We are competing. We are there and we are Premier League level. We’re doing things and performing at that level.”