christiansen delighted but monk left miserable

LEEDS UNITED head coach Thomas Christiansen insists that his side's motivation to beat a direct Championship rival in Middlesbrough superseded any desire to get one over former Whites chief Garry Monk in yesterday's eventful encounter at Elland Road.

Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk.

Making his first return to Leeds after his controversial decision to part company with the club in May – and subsequently link up with Boro – Monk had a miserable afternoon after seeing his side lose out 2-1 with home supporters berating him at regular intervals.

For United, goals from Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski enabled them to stop the rot after an alarming sequence of seven defeats in their previous eight matches in all competitions, with Christiansen’s side moving up to seventh place behind Boro, who currently occupy the final play-off spot on goal difference.

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On whether a victory over Monk’s Boro possessed added spice, Christiansen, whose side were afforded the perfect boost ahead of back-to-back trips to leaders Wolves and in-form Barnsley, said: “The players were aware of that, but it is not an extra motivation. The motivation is that we played against Middlesbrough, a very strong team. We played better than them.

“I am very happy. The players did a very good job, believing and following my instructions to go for the game and for the three points. That, from my point of view, marked the difference.

“The players did all that they had to do. We faced one of the best teams in this league, a team who wanted promotion straight, but we played better than them and deserved the three points.

“The team is alive and they have been alive the whole time. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail, but when you fail you have to work hard to improve the situation.

“We have analysed a lot and worked a lot.

“There has been a good atmosphere, believing it would turn.”

After seeing his side show signs of getting their act together following an indifferent start to the season, Boro had a relapse against Leeds, as their winless sequence at Elland Road extended to six matches.

Seeking a fourth straight win after successive victories over Reading, Hull City and Sunderland ahead of the last international break, the Teesside club turned in a disappointing performance.

Even though a controversial 77th-minute penalty from top-scorer Britt Assombalonga reduced the arrears and set up a dramatic finale, Boro could not conjure a leveller.

That penalty award, after a foul by Luke Ayling on Daniel Ayala, followed a lengthy consultation between referee Keith Stroud and a linesman, with a number of flagsticks thrown in the latter’s direction from home supporters following the hugely contentious decision.

The flags had been supplied by the club to fans to generate atmosphere ahead of kick-off in an attempt to display togetherness after a difficult run of results.

Despite late pressure, Leeds held out with the final whistle being the prelude to mass celebrations among home supporters, while two famous Italian comedians Pio and Amedeo, invited to the game by the club, raced onto the pitch just after the final whistle.

But the result was no laughing matter for Monk, left to rue a forgettable return to Elland Road.

He said: “It’s not about me. What has happened has happened. I have said my side, the club have said their side and that is done and dusted. I enjoyed last season, but my only focus is on Middlesbrough.

“The game was done on fine margins, a game of limited chances. We did enough to at least take a point away.”

Elsewhere in the Championship, it proved to be a mixed weekend, with Hull City, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley recording draws.

Under-pressure Tigers chief Leonid Slutsky was on the cusp of celebrating his first win in four league matches, only for his side’s habit of conceding crucial late goals to resurface again after they were pegged back in a 2-2 home draw with Ipswich Town.

Wednesday, too, endured frustration after their play-off push was kept in check with a 0-0 stalemate with Bristol City.

Barnsley, meanwhile, extended their unbeaten run to four games with another encouraging result in a 1-1 draw at Norwich City.