BORO BLOW THE CHANCE TO KEEP UP PACE AT TOP
Mowatt strikes early for Leeds
SO MUCH for running away with things at the top of the table then.
Having moved to the top of the Championship when they drew at Birmingham on Wednesday, despite having been reduced to ten men, Middlesbrough passed up the chance to cement that position as they suffered a first home defeat since August.
Despite dominating Leeds United for the majority of what turned out to be a frustrating afternoon, and creating a host of chances that foundered on the excellence of goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and centre-half Sol Bamba, Boro were unable to make their superiority count.
As a result, they find themselves back under pressure ahead of Tuesday’s home game with Bolton Wanderers, as Derby moved ahead of them at the summit after their victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
This was not a case of the Teessiders freezing as a result of claiming top spot, with Jelle Vossen, Kike and Albert Adomah all creating excellent opportunities that were denied by Silvestri.
However, for all that Leeds’ resilience was admirable given the off-field troubles that have hounded the club all season, it felt like an opportunity missed from a Middlesbrough point of view, a point not lost
on Aitor Karanka. The Boro head coach said: “The main emotion is frustration because we have done everything we could to try to win this game.
“We couldn’t do that, but I can’t say anything bad about my players because they have all done their best.
“Now we have to think about the game on Tuesday and we have to keep going because this is the way the league is.
“If we had scored one goal here, I think we could have beaten them by two, three or four. We knew that the first goal was going to be the most difficult one to get, and because the first goal didn’t arrive, it was impossible to score the second or third one.
“Now we have to keep going and not forget why we are in the position where we are now. That’s because we have been doing really well, and we can’t forget that we are a very good team.”
Boro’s fate was ultimately sealed in the third minute as Leeds scored with their opening attack of the game.
Tomas Mejias, who was deputising for the suspended Dimi Konstantopoulos after his red card against Birmingham, saw his attempt at a quick throw intercepted by Lewis Cook, and he fed Alex Mowatt, who drilled a deflected strike into the bottom corner.
The hosts dominated the rest of the game, but a succession of openings were thwarted by Silvestri.
The Italian goalkeeper beat away an early shot from Kike, turned Vossen’s first-time volley around the post and denied Adomah within the opening 20 minutes.
His best save of the game saw him tip Kike’s deflected shot over the crossbar shortly before half-time, and when he was beaten by Vossen’s close-range prod, Giuseppe Bellusci got back well to hack the ball off the line.
Leeds were on the back foot for most of the game, but the otherwise impressive Bamba should have done better with a header that flashed wide in first-half stoppage time, and Scott Wootton crashed a second-half header off the crossbar with Mejias well beaten.
Leeds boss Neil Redfearn said: “It was brilliant. They’re a good side, a very good side, but I thought at every turn there was a Leeds United player in the way. If you look at Middlesbrough, I think they’ve got to be the favourites to go up.
“But from our point of view, we’re on a good run and there’s a real togetherness there.
“We’ve had that where we’ve created a lot of chances but not been able to get the win – it’s nice to have been able to do that to someone else.
“I thought we made it very difficult for them. Our goalkeeper made some brilliant saves, but I thought there were some great performances from one to 11.There was a good balance to our play.
“We can’t get carried away because we’re a young side. We’ve had a bit of adversity, but they’ve learned from that adversity and grown as a group. They’re got a successful feel about them now.”
EARLY STRIKE: Alex Mowatt, left, celebrates after his third-minute winner for Leeds
MAGIC MARCO: Leeds United’s Marco Silvestri saves a shot from Middlesbrough’s Jelle Vossen