Leeds United 3 Middlesbrough 2: Seven-up for Leeds on a chaotic afternoon with little case for both defences
There was so much more to pour over, but in a crowded December, it’s all about points.
Leeds, who had an extra man for almost half an hour after Anfernee Dijksteel’s dismissal for a second yellow card, made overly hard work of it.
The relief at the final whistle belonged to them, in fairness, with substitute Sammy Silvera going close to a late leveller when he hit the post.
For both managers, there were facets to admire, but also food for thought.
Both defences were all over the place in a madcap first half when five goals were scored. It could have been a cricket score in truth.
The decisive goal ultimately came from the spot from Joel Piroe. Emmanuel Latte-Lath’s second goal just before the interval dragged Boro back into it.
The odds at half-time on there being no further goals in the second period would have been exceedingly long, but that it was happened in the event.
For Boro, despite a strong performance between both boxes, there were some weak concessions and an unfortunate addition to their injury count at the back in Paddy McNair, with their options looking seriously thin at centre-half in particular.
The first-half action was simply breathless in one of those madcap, unfathomable, exhilarating games that seem to crop up at Elland Road from time to time.
It ended with Leeds leading by the odd goal in five in a half with both sides exhibiting swagger in their attacking work, but a dereliction of duty on the defensive side.
It looked like Leeds, after a riotous half, had restored order when Joel Piroe tucked away a penalty to make it 3-1 on 38 minutes - after substitute Matt Clarke, making just his second appearance from the bench following a long-term back injury which had sidelined him for 13 months - fouled Georginio Rutter with a comical challenge.
Not so, in keeping with a chaotic opening 45 minutes or so. Latte Lath headed in unmarked from Dan Barlaser’s corner.
It was a half which provided five goals. It is no exaggeration to say it could - and perhaps should have been ten.
Key duo Hayden Hackney and Dael Fry were again missing for Boro, in a half when their injury ills - more especially at the back - were added to when Paddy McNair went off injured.
It looked set up for Leeds, against a Boro side without eight players ahead of kick-off.
The fun began on three minutes.
Leeds afforded Boro too much space down their right and ex-United captain Jonny Howson found Alex Bangura, who supplied the free Latte-Lath.
The striker cut inside Archie Gray and smashed in a rising drive past Illan Meslier.
It was a stunner for United followers, but a bonkers opening, which comfortably outstripped events on Wednesday saw them turn the table and boast a lead by the seventh minute.
Rav van den Berg cleared a James effort off the line before Seny Dieng kept out Georginio Rutter’s blockbuster. There was no respite with great work on the left by Sam Byram eding in him floating over a cross which was attacked by James, who nipped in between McNair and Bangura to head in.
And then it was 2-1 with Rutter finding Gray, whose response following his early error was terrific.
His cross deflected off McNair and was headed in by Summerville, in splendid isolation in the box.
Boro were not put off, with play switching to the other end with Latte Lath firing a good chance over before being sent clear by Barlaser.
Meslier raced out and made a key block with Matt Crooks’ follow-up deflected over. Howson then chanced his arm with a shot which was not far away.
Back came Leeds on the counter, with Summerville picking the pocket of Howson and finding James, Dieng got his angles right to save.
Summerville then cut inside and fired over after half-appeals for a home penalty after Byram went down in the box under pressure from Morgan Rogers.
Clarke’s horror moment then saw Leeds provide themselves with a two-goal cushion. Boro refused to cowed, Latte Lath - shortly after missing a previous chance - heading home.
On the resumption, Leeds soon had a huge chance to, probably, seal it.
Boro’s offside trap failed and Rutter was in the clear, but fired wastefully wide.
An innovative free-kick routine then ended with Gray blazing a shot wide, with Boro, going forward, again looking handy, if less so at the back.
The next goal looked big and Boro got into some promising situations, but the next development when Dijksteel was sent off for a bookable offence after catching James.
The onus was on Leeds to settle themselves and find the gaps.
In the event, it was Boro who found space with Leeds handed a huge let-off after the Teessiders countered.
Jones found substitute Sammy Silvera, whose shot took a deflection off Pascal Struijk and hit the post.
Bamford, sporting a blonde haircut, almost sealed it for Leeds, with Piroe’s follow up saved.
Leeds United: Meslier; Gray, Rodon, Struijk, Byram; Ampadu, Kamara; James (Gnonto 82), Rutter (Bamford 82), Summerville (Anthony 90+4); Piroe (Gruev 90+3). Unused substitutes: Darlow, Cooper, Shackleton, Poveda, Spence.
Middlesbrough: Dieng; Dijksteel, van den Berg, McNair (Clarke 36), Bangura (Engel 83); Howson, Barlaser (Gilbert 83); Jones, Crooks (Silvera 72), Rogers; Latte Lath (Coburn 72). Unused substitutes: Glover, Coulson, McCabe, Cartwright.
Referee: D England (South Yorkshire).