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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Leeds Utd v Middlesbrough. 19th Nov 2017.

A lovely bright and crisp West Yorkshire morning greeted the hordes of fans heading for Elland Road and the Sunday lunchtime clash with Garry Monk's Middlesbrough. We had all had the annoying international break to figure out how Leeds could halt their horrendous run of form that has seen an excruciating 6 defeats in the last 7 outings for the mighty whites? I was focusing on our decent recent record against the Smoggies who had failed to score in 4 of the last 5 games against the men in white.  Could the leaky Leeds defence step up to the plate against the formidable Boro strike force though?

Away from the concerns with Leeds' recent form the big debate amongst the fans surrounded #Flaggate. Would the free flags being dished out around the ground qualify Leeds for a tin pot club award or would it enhance the seething atmosphere inside Elland Road? It seemed a tad ironic to me that the message on the fan boards in the East stand would read "Together" whilst creating another topic to divide the populous on Planet Leeds? There's one thing for sure life is never boring in the rarefied atmosphere of LS11.

TC's team selection was always going to be interesting for what had turned into a seminal game in Leeds' season. Would Lasogga retain his place? What about Lonergan? Would Ekuban return? What were the odds on Berardi slide tackling Monk in the technical area? Plenty to muse on as I quaffed the pre match refreshments. As I suspected the team selection was bold from the under pressure TC. Roofe started up front in place of Lasogga with Hernandez, Saiz and Alioski behind him and Phillips and Vieira binding the midfield together. There was no Dallas or Lasogga on the bench. Interesting?

The flags and mosaic display in the crowd as the teams came out was spectacular and set the scene for a rip roaring game. Garry Monk received the expected brutal reception as he took his place in the technical dug out. But would he have the last laugh on his former team? We were about to find out. After the poor recent performances from the men in white it was good to see them "at it" from the very first kick as everyman in a white shirt harried and badgered the Smoggies. Their expensive array of talent seemed to struggle in the white heat of the cauldron that is Elland Road on a day like this. Jansson went close from a corner after just 6 minutes. This was much, much better than the Brentford  performance as the eager Leeds players fed on the huge vocal support. Jansson, back to his best, brought the crowd to it's feet with a clattering challenge on Tavernier as he won a header and then reminded him what he thought of him as he lay prostrate on the ground awaiting attention.  Alioski found space to get a shot away after a good Leeds move quickly followed by Berardi appearing on the edge of the box and steering his shot high into the South Stand. That pitch invasion will be epic if he ever does score before he retires!

Middlesbrough were looking to quieten the home crowd and on the 20th minute they so nearly did as the obnoxious Assombalonga got free down the right flank and fired a low cross in front of Tavernier who froze in front of the kop and missed his chance. Ex Leeds boy Howson retrieved the ball and laid it back to Downing who brought a superb save from Lonergan in the Leeds goal. This was all very frenetic and high intensity from both sides. Tavernier wasn't having the best of days. He conceded a petty foul on Ayling about 35 yards out near to the touchline. Alioski clipped the ball into the box where the industrious Phillips was first to the ball but his header drifted to the back post where Herndandez struck like a hungry Cobra to finish in style. Elland Road exploded with joy as the players celebrated the opening goal. 24 minutes 1.0 Leeds.

George Friend is probably the best left back in the division but Alioski was giving him a real Sunday roasting. Friend picked up a yellow card on the half hour for a crude challenge on the Macedonian. From the free kick Jansson won the header and the ball fell to Saiz but the ball wouldn't sit down for the Spaniard as he saw his lob go high over the bar. This was all very encouraging though and a joy to watch. Roofe was winning more headers than Lasogga ever has and also stretching Ayala and the Boro defence whilst at the back Jansson and Cooper were playing with less generosity than Ebeneezer Scrooge on Xmas Eve as they dealt brutally with Assombalonga and his chums. Saiz was causing the usual havoc in midfield ably helped by Hernandez and Alioski whilst Phillips and Vieira were dogging out the centre midfield. The good times were creeping back to LS11.

The ref wasn't having the best of games as he booked Jansson for obstructing Braithwaite on the halfway much to the Swede's annoyance. Cooper went near with a header and Alioski had his shot blocked after more good work from Saiz as the half ended with Leeds a goal to the good. Magic.  The Urinal Philosophers were back on fine form eulogising about Saiz, Jansson, and Hernandez. " Nice to see Jansson's got his mean head back on today" thought one fan whilst another was slavering at the mouth with superlatives for Saiz " The man's a f****** magician" he gurgled starry eyed. Finally one fan nailed it "we deserved that lead let's not let them off the hook in the 2nd half"

Ayling was the first player to get the fans off their seats after just two minutes of the second period as he weaved his way through and exchanged a one two with Alioski before hitting his shot just over the bar at the kop end. After the tortuous performances in the last few weeks this was a pure joy to watch as the Leeds team reprised the effort, skill and commitment that took then to the top of the league not that long ago. On 54 minutes Elland Road exploded again. After Tavernier pulled his shot wide at the South Stand end Leeds moved the ball quickly down field...........Roofe picked the ball up and danced around three Boro defenders like a slippery Eel before laying the ball wide to Hernandez who hit a superb low cross to Alioski at the far post who steered the ball high into the net and sent 31,000 home fans into ecstasy. This was the ultimate Sunday afternoon delight. 2:0 Leeds and Boro were wilting. 3 minutes later Saiz mesmerised the Boro defence and beat the goalie with a low shot that somehow hit the inside of the post and came out. Wow!

Just after the hour Cooper should have killed the game off but he made a hash of what was a free header from another Hernandez cross. He'd even got time to bring the ball down and score. It wasn't going to matter though because Boro's attacks were just shipwrecked against the two rocks that were Jansson and Cooper in the Leeds rearguard. Then just when I was thinking Leeds would get another as Boro pushed forward looking for a way back into the game the linesman and ref conspired to help them. Ayala grabbed Ayling around the neck and threw him to the turf from a corner before trying to walk over him as he ran back to his position. Ayling grabbed his leg as he was about to what's called in Rugby rake him and somehow that was a penalty in the eyes of the ref and linesman. Pandemonium in the South Stand as the flag sticks suddenly rained down onto the pitch in protest. Unbelievable. Assombalonga converted the penalty with Leeds players still protesting to the ref. Outrageous decision. 13 minutes left 2.1 Leeds. All of a sudden bums started to squeak amongst the home fans as Boro piled forward now looking for an unlikely equaliser.

O'Kane came on for Saiz and then Pennington for Alioski as TC tried to shore up the creaking Leeds defence. Surely Boro weren't going to equalise? My fingernails screamed in protest as 7 minutes of added time started. Ayala headed a corner just over the bar as by heart sank about three rows of seats. Finally the ref blew his whistle and looked for the nearest armoured car to leave the stadium in as the home fans celebrated a welcome three points from an impassive display. Suddenly two men appeared on the pitch in strange overcoats and hugged the Leeds players as if they were their long lost friends. Apparently they were two famous Italian comedians who are friends with our Chairman. It certainly added an unusual end to a cracking game.

Saiz was peerless, Jansson back to his aggressive best and Alioski showed yet more improvement on the wing. Overall I couldn't fault anybody it was very much a "together" performance from the men in white. This was the Leeds side we saw earlier in the season playing with pride, passion and no little skill epitomising the club's "Side before self" mantra. Delicious! The smiles on the faces of the fans streaming away from the ground told it's own story. Leeds are back.

Just the small matter of Wolves away on Wednesday followed by a trip to our bogey ground Oakwell on Saturday lunchtime. In what is a bonkers championship this season don't be surprised if this is the start of another unbeaten run for Leeds.

Can't wait.



Beau D'Lollocks said...

Thank you Andrew, It's nice to know I haven't woken up with a faulty memory. I need to see film of that penalty claim. I was too far from the action.

Leeds watcher since 65 said...

Welcome back Andrew and the real Leeds United just need to take it to Wolves, did you hear GM's post match interview? If you didn't he basically said we scored against the run of play and they deserved more out of the game, deluded to my eyes we should have been at least 3 up before the penalty travesty MOT

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