SO much for a dry January, with Leeds United falling off the wagon spectacularly.
Sating their thirst for Championship goals after a drought stretching back five hours and 40 minutes may have been a restorative tonic, but a punch-drunk defensive show left a bad taste in the mouth on a riotous afternoon of on-pitch disorder.
A game that everyone present will remember for many years to come proved a potent brew and had a bit of everything, unfortunately including a couple of late stings in the tale for the bold 10-man hosts.
The game ended with Thomas Christiansen, usually a considered man, offering a mild expletive to convey his exasperation at a crazy and bewildering Elland Road occasion that seasoned Leeds observers have grown all too familiar with over the years.
For the record, United’s head coach would have much rather that his team had played ‘sh**’ and won – and preferably have kept 11 men on the pitch, with United’s increasingly damning disciplinary charge sheet providing sleepless nights for an increasingly sore boss.
Christiansen, with much to ponder during Leeds’s training camp to Spain this week after seeing his side extend their winless streak to five matches and suffer a third straight loss, said: “I am very disappointed. There were many ups and downs in the game, many emotions came through, but we cannot afford to lose the possibility to do something good in this league with the red cards. That must stop now.
“We saw the response of the team in the second half. Unfortunately, we need to shoot ourselves in the feet to react and to be one player less. Perhaps the tactic for the next game is to start with one less. This is when we play best.”
Earlier, much earlier, a bitter first half had started to assume nightmarish proportions after Liam Cooper became the third Leeds player to be dismissed in successive games – with the club’s tally of six red cards being the highest in the Championship.
So much for the pre-match clarion call from Cooper for the team to sort out their discipline – talk about ironic timing.
Soon after his departure for a high, injudicious challenge on George Saville, which appeared ill-timed as opposed to sinister, Millwall seemingly had the game on lock-down after a second goal.
What transpired in a breathless second half was as exhilarating as it was unexpected amid an ear-piercing wall of noise when home fans rekindled the remarkable atmosphere of May 8, 2010 when the Elland Road crowd helped drag Leeds over the line to promotion against Bristol Rovers.
Visibly affected by the increasingly frenzied occasion, Millwall capitulated in the first 20 minutes after the restart as Leeds gloriously forged a 3-2 lead and fed off their incessant support.
But by the final whistle the only thing that was deafening was the silence with the deflation that came three minutes from time when ex-Leeds striker Tom Elliott drilled home being the precursor to disbelief when Jed Wallace raced away and fired in a deflected stoppage-time winner.
It was cruel on Leeds, more especially given the late substitution of two-goal Pierre-Michel Lasogga, whose exit due to fatigue changed the dynamic of a fluctuating game once more.
Unfortunately, we need to shoot ourselves in the feet to react and to be one player less. Perhaps the tactic for the next game is to start with one less. This is when we play best.Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen
It was ultimately a day that belonged to Millwall in their 4,000th Football League fixture that saw them claim a first away win since April 30 as Leeds conceded four goals at home for the first time since March, 2016.
The tone was set inside the first 20 seconds when Aiden O’Brien went close for Millwall in a half in which they feasted on United’s defensive ineptitude.
It brought two goals, but could have yielded several more, with Millwall threatening to score on every occasion that the ball was swung into the area, United’s defence showing a dereliction of duty long before Cooper exited.
At the other end Leeds also showed deficiencies with the recalled Lasogga spurning two gilt-edged chances.
With Steve Morison producing the sort of authoritative display that he very rarely showed in his time at Leeds, Millwall governed proceedings and after a marginal offside call denied them a ‘goal’ through Wallace, a legitimate one arrived when Morison adeptly teed up O’Brien, who rose above Gaetano Berardi to nod home.
O’Brien and Shaun Hutchinson exposed United’s aerial frailities to go close before Cooper’s red, the prelude to a kerfuffle between both benches with Millwall assistant David Livermore and Leeds coach Paul Butler sent to the stands.
Lee Gregory’s close-range second, after more tidy work from Morison, enhanced the pain before more fireworks.
Lasogga atoned for his earlier misses by emphatically firing home seconds into the second-half after an assist from Roofe, who bundled in a leveller after Archer spilled a routine cross from debutant Laurens De Bock.
Lasogga’s majestic low drive completed the comeback amid cacophonous noise. But on a madcap afternoon like Saturday, there was always more to come.