By Jonathan Veal, PA
Keylor Navas immediately showed his class on his Nottingham Forest debut as he helped his new club to a 1-0 win over Leeds in a crunch clash at the bottom of the Premier League.
The three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid was part of Forest’s recruitment drive in January, making a loan switch from Paris St Germain, and he produced a string of saves in the first half to keep Leeds at bay.
He had already saved from Luis Sinisterra by the time Brennan Johnson’s 14th-minute goal put Forest ahead and then he kept out Luke Ayling and Willy Gnonto to ensure the three points.
The win is massive for Forest in their bid to move clear of the bottom three and they are now six points above 18th-placed Everton and may now begin to look up rather than down after strengthening their squad last month.
YOUUUUU REDS! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/dhqVzdD5PM
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) February 5, 2023
Leeds are definitely looking over their shoulders as after a seventh game without a win they are out of the bottom three on goal difference alone, with two games against Manchester United coming up in the next seven days.
They will live to regret coming up against Navas in this form as they squandered good chances in the first half, but could not find that cutting edge in the second half.
Forest enjoyed a busy end to the transfer window as they added three signings on deadline day and brought in Andre Ayew as a free agent two days later.
Highly decorated goalkeeper Navas was the only starter of those and immediately proved his calibre as he was forced into an early save.
Sinisterra darted into the penalty and flicked an effort towards goal but the former Real Madrid man got down well to keep it out.
Forest took a while to get going but once they did they soon went ahead.
Morgan Gibbs-White sent in a free-kick from the right which went all the way through to Johnson at the far post and the Wales international lashed in a low drive from the edge of the area.
Despite having the advantage, Forest could not take control of the game and Leeds pushed for an equaliser.
They created two big chances within the space of five minutes but could not convert either.
First Sinisterra blazed over Gnonto’s ball back across goal from just six yards out and then Navas came to Forest’s rescue again with another good stop.
Gnonto got in down the left again and squared a ball to Patrick Bamford, who completely missed his kick, but it fell invitingly to Ayling at the far post. However Navas was equal to the shot and palmed it away.
The 36-year-old was being worked hard and he made another save on the stroke of half-time to deny Gnonto’s fierce shot.
Italy forward Gnonto was again causing trouble for Forest early in the second half, but it was the hosts who had a great chance to double their lead.
Gibbs-White sent Neco Williams through on goal but, after lacking the legs to race clear, he cut back on to his left foot and sent his effort clear of the crossbar.
For all of Leeds’ possession they were not creating much and instead it was Forest who were enjoying the better moments in front of goal.
A good chance to seal the win fell to substitute Sam Surridge with 12 minutes remaining, but he curled over from a good position inside the area after being fed by Gibbs-White.