MAE­STRO MIRCO DE­LIGHTS EVANS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John McDougall

LEEDS boss Steve Evans heaped praise on Mirco An­tenucci af­ter the front­man notched his fourth goal in three games in the win over Black­burn.

Skip­per Sol Bamba’s close-range fin­ish handed Leeds a first-half ad­van­tage with An­tenucci’s ninth of the cam­paign dou­bling Leeds’ lead, while Simeon Jack­son grabbed a late con­so­la­tion for Rovers.

And Evans, whose side have won three games in a week since be­ing thrashed by Brighton, wants his striker to con­cen­trate on his foot­ball de­spite his con­tract ex­pir­ing in the sum­mer.

“It was very sim­i­lar to Cardiff in mid­week. When I see An­tenucci go through in that fash­ion I only think he’s go­ing to score,” said Evans. “I’ve said many times what a won­der­ful finisher he is on the train­ing ground.

“The con­ver­sa­tion is just go and play your foot­ball son, let your foot­ball do the talk­ing and he’s got a lot of games to go be­tween now and the end of the sea­son.

“It’s easy to be good for a week, it’s a lot harder to be good for seven, eight, ten weeks or a sea­son, but he’s a won­der­ful player.”

Tony Watt went toe-to-toe with Liam Brid­cutt and he nearly slipped in El­liott Ben­nett, but Gae­tano Ber­ardi made a vi­tal 13th-minute in­ter­cep­tion.

Mo­ments later from Ben­nett’s free­kick, Shane Duffy rose high­est to head just over the bar as Rovers pressed for an opener.

Leeds young­ster Alex Mowatt nearly handed his side a 16th-minute lead af­ter his sub­lime free-kick over the Black­burn wall was clawed away by a div­ing Ja­son Steele.

Danny Gra­ham could have given Rovers a 32nd-minute lead when he rolled past Giuseppe Bel­lusci and Marco Sil­vestri par­ried the low ef­fort into Watt’s path only for Char­lie Tay­lor to clear.

And Leeds made Rovers pay two min­utes later when some poor Black­burn mark­ing left Bamba free to side foot home Mowatt’s cor­ner.

Leeds top scorer An­tenucci had his first sight of goal when he turned and ran at the Black­burn rear­guard to un­leash a 43rd-minute rocket wide.

Bamba nearly added his se­cond in style af­ter con­trol­ling Brid­cutt’s stop­page-time free-kick for an over­head kick only to be pe­nal­ized for foul­ing Steele with the at­tempt. Af­ter the break, Sun­der­land loa­nee Gra­ham met Ben- nett’s 49th-minute cor­ner but failed to di­rect his header to­wards goal as Rovers sought an equaliser.

But from Ben­nett’s 69th-minute free­kick, Leeds broke for­wards swiftly through Mowatt who fed in An­tenucci to lift the ball ex­pertly over Steele and dou­ble his side’s ad­van­tage.

Bel­lusci had a ner­vous mo­ment when Craig Con­way’s dan­ger­ous 80thminute cross clipped off the de­fender’s head and nar­rowly missed creep­ing in.

But Rovers grabbed one back when Gra­ham knocked down for Jack­son, whose first close-range ef­fort was saved by Sil­vestri, but the sub­sti­tute made no mis­take with the re­bound.

And fol­low­ing the late drama, Black­burn boss Paul Lambert felt the re­cent busy sched­ule made the en­counter a game too far for his side.

“I’ve just said to them, you’ve played so many games in a short space of time and I don’t know if any other team’s had this sched­ule that we have,” he said.

“It’s gru­elling and it’s the same lads that have been go­ing out, week in, week out, and I knew one game was go­ing to come back and bite you.

“But I couldn’t fault the ef­fort and the com­mit­ment.

“So I’m dis­ap­pointed to lose but you’ve got to give the lads credit, for never giv­ing in.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON A REAL HIGH: Leeds United’s Sol Bamba cel­e­brates scor­ing the opener

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