Thrills, spills and belly-aches - final word on Leeds United's slightly crazy Championship victory against Middlesbrough

AT the end, both rival managers probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, in truth.

It was an afternoon which exhibited elements of the good regarding Leeds United and Middlesbrough, but also flaws.

It ended with a seventh successive home victory for Leeds - the first time they have achieved this feat in the top-two tiers in 24 years.

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For Boro, it was a seventh successive trip to Elland Road with a win; although there was at least the consolation of landing a few blows upon Leeds, having not laid a glove on them in several previous visits.

Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville wheels away in celebration after scoring his side's second goal in the 3-2 home win over Championship rivals Middlesbrough. Picture: Tony Johnson.Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville wheels away in celebration after scoring his side's second goal in the 3-2 home win over Championship rivals Middlesbrough. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Leeds United's Crysencio Summerville wheels away in celebration after scoring his side's second goal in the 3-2 home win over Championship rivals Middlesbrough. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Almost exactly four years to the day, a seriously-depleted Boro line-up, struggling at the wrong end of the table, were taken to the cleaners by a rampant Leeds side in a 4-0 trouncing.

Once again on Saturday, they were light in terms of options and looked like being put to the sword at times, but carried weapons of their own - and their Championship aims are somewhat different these days.

For Daniel Farke, there was happiness at beating a clever and progressive side who showed the qualities which led them to previous head-turning victories over Leicester City, Southampton and Sunderland.

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A side who refused to go quietly after playing most of the final half hour with ten men - and a ‘rival contender’ in his words.

Leeds’s initial reaction after going behind very early on was irresistible, ably led by twin terrors in Dan James and Crysencio Summerville, who claimed collector’s items in the shape of headed goals.

By the 37th minute, they were 3-1 ahead, but in keeping with a riotous first-half, there was more to come and it came from Boro.

At 3-2, the game was in the balance at the start of the second half. Leeds’s lack of ruthless edge - chances came and went including a huge one for Georginio Rutter - ensured they made it unduly hard for themselves.

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Despite having a man advantage, there was relief among home punters at the final whistle. Hearts had been in mouths a bit earlier when substitute

Sammy Silvera saw his shot deflect off Pascal Struijk and hit the post as Boro went desperately close to a leveller.

In the final analysis, they lost - conceding three goals for a third successive time in away matches.

For Michael Carrick, there was pride at some of his side’s handsome work in possession between both boxes - with Leeds lad and Boro captain Jonny Howson arguably being the best player on the pitch in possibly his swansong at Elland Road against the boyhood club who he also previously led.

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Yet there will be obvious worries too. Not just at Boro’s defending, certainly for all three goals, but an absentee count which is becoming crippling.

Factoring in the ineligible Sam Greenwood, they were without eight players at kick-off on Saturday.

The sight of their senior on-pitch defender in Paddy McNair being substituted in the first half with a back injury compounded matters and it was later exacerbated by Anfernee Dijksteel’s dismissal for a second yellow card after felling James. Boro’s central defensive options are currently paper-thin.

Untimely suspensions are also kicking in. Alongside Dijksteel, Isaiah Jones will miss this weekend’s game with Ipswich after his fifth caution of the season.

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But what about the joy? There was plenty of it from both sides in a rip-roaring first-half especially; it produced one of those slightly mad Elland Road episodes that crop up occasionally.

Five goals arrived - it could easily have been double that with Boro’s Emmanuel Latte Lath scoring at the start and end of a half when he could - and probably should - have secured match-ball rights.

After the goal rush at the start of Wednesday’s game in Leeds, there was an encore.

First, Latte Lath went solo, cutting inside Archie Gray after being afforded an ocean of space before firing home a cracker.

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James and Rutter went close before James showed instincts usually in keeping with a number nine by getting between two defenders to head in after terrific work from Sam Byram.

Gray, whose reaction to his early error was first-class, then saw his cross from the right, deflected like Byram’s, headed home by Summerville.

Every time Leeds attacked, they looked capable of scoring. Unfortunately for them, so did Boro, with Joe Rodon holding things together.

Joel Piroe’s penalty after a desperate challenge on Rutter from substitute Matt Clarke - caught cold instantly after replacing McNair in just his second appearance after 13 months out with injury - hinted at restoring order for Leeds.

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Latte Lath’s glancing header from Dan Barlaser’s corner suggested otherwise.

Second-half specialists Boro had hope, but that was the end of their fun.

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).