Leeds 2-1 Middlesbrough: Hosts end dismal run on Garry Monk's return
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 19/11/17 7:49pm
Leeds ended their recent dismal run with a feisty 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough in the Sky Bet Championship, as former manager Garry Monk returned to Elland Road.
Monk resigned from his post at Leeds in the summer before taking over at Boro, and he was making his first appearance back at the club as the hosts went in search of a confidence-boosting win after losing six of their last seven league fixtures.
The game certainly did not disappoint either, as Pablo Hernandez, who played with Monk at Swansea and was brought to Leeds by his former team-mate, netted the opener in the 24th minute before he set up Ergjan Alioski for the second nine minutes into the second half.
Leeds: Lonergan (7), Ayling (7), Cooper (7), Jansson (7), Berardi (7), Vieira (6), Phillips (7), Saiz (8), Hernandez (8), Alioski (8), Roofe (6).
Subs used: Ekuban (5), O'Kane (n/a), Pennington (n/a).
Middlesbrough: Randolph (6), Roberts (6), Ayala (6), Gibson (6), Friend (5), Leadbitter (5), Howson (5), Downing (7), Tavernier (6), Braithwaite (6), Assombalonga (7).
Subs used: Johnson (5), Traore (6), Fletcher (5).
Man of the match: Pablo Hernandez.
But there was a moment of controversy in the 75th minute as Leeds' Luke Ayling gave away a penalty after grabbing the ankle of Daniel Ayala in the box - although only after being fouled by the Boro defender himself. Britt Assombalonga confidently converted from the spot but Leeds held firm in the closing stages.
Middlesbrough could have got off to the perfect start, but were denied a penalty in the 10th minute. As Stewart Downing delivered a corner, there was a tussle between Gaetano Berardi and Assombalonga at the back post, with the Leeds defender appearing to foul the Boro striker. However, his appeals went unanswered by referee Keith Stroud.
Leeds made two changes with Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe coming into the side. Middlesbrough made the one switch, with the suspended Cyrus Christie replaced by Connor Roberts.
The visitors also had two superb chances to open the scoring just after the 20-minute mark as firstly Assombalonga slotted an inviting ball across the face of goal, with neither Marcus Tavernier or Martin Braithwaite able to connect, before Downing's thunderous volley from range was tipped over the crossbar by Andy Lonergan.
But Leeds went ahead with a well-worked goal in the 24th minute. Samuel Saiz whipped the ball into the box from the top-right corner, allowing Kalvin Phillips to lightly head it towards the incoming Hernandez at the back post, and he powered the ball into the top of the net.
Leeds could have added a second with just two minutes of the first half to play, but Liam Cooper could only direct a header just wide of the post.
The home side doubled their lead in the 54th minute with another good move, Roofe managing to shake off a number of Middlesbrough defenders to burst through the middle of the park before sliding the ball to Hernandez on his left. The winger then zipped the ball across the face of goal and Alioski poked home at the back post.
Both sides had chances to grab the next goal. Leeds could have added an almost-instant third but Saiz's powerful effort hammered against the woodwork, before Ayling got his head onto a bobbling volley from Braithwaite to send it wide. Cooper again missed a clear opportunity just after the hour mark as his bullet header whistled past the upright.
Tensions spilled over with 15 minutes of the game to play. As a Middlesbrough corner was delivered, Ayala pulled Ayling down to the floor at the back post, with the Leeds defender retaliating by grabbing the ankle of the Boro man, which was spotted by the linesman and, after a conversation with Stroud, the referee pointed to the spot despite protests from the home side.
After a delay of a few minutes, Assombalonga powered the ball past Lonergan to set up a spicy finish, but Leeds managed to see the game out to take them level with Middlesbrough on 26 points and just behind them on goal difference in seventh spot.
Thomas Christiansen: "It was perfect. It's what I expected from the team, it's what they were prepared to do and they did it in what was a difficult situation. When the referee gave a penalty for the opponent, the character and responsibility the players took on the pitch was perfect and I congratulate them. We were just better in this game."
Garry Monk: "We knew it was going to be a very tight game, coming here to Elland Road always is, but I think we deserved more than what we got. I thought defensively, we didn't really have any problems.
"We didn't make the most of our chances and in this league, it is quite marginal and it is whoever takes their moments. They took two of theirs and we took one but I definitely thought the score line was a bit harsh. We deserved something from that game."
Man of the match - Pablo Hernandez
Monk's former Swansea team-mate came back to haunt him at Elland Road, scoring a superb opening goal before setting up Alioski with a perfectly-weighted pass to end Leeds' run of four games without a victory.
He delivered superb free-kicks on a number of occasions and showed the passion that Leeds fans want to see from their players. A great afternoon for the forward.
Both teams will play on Wednesday evening, with Leeds travelling to current Sky Bet Championship leaders Wolves, while Middlesbrough welcome Birmingham to the Riverside Stadium.