BORO BLOW THE CHANCE TO KEEP UP PACE AT TOP

Mowatt strikes early for Leeds

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Simon Wal­ton

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

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

MAGIC MARCO: Leeds United’s Marco Silvestri saves a shot from Mid­dles­brough’s Jelle Vossen

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