Championship: Middlesbrough sink Leeds in comprehensive win
Pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough closed to within a point of Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion with a handsome 3-0 home victory over Leeds United.
The tone for this match was set more or less in the first 10 minutes, when after great work from Uruguayan attacker Christian Stuani, David Nugent swept in a close range cross.
Leeds were lacklustre in their attempts to salvage an equaliser, though with no obvious cohesion in attack, Boro were quick to read every pattern of play, nulifying any stab of a threat in their half.
Stuani was a menace throughout as he attempted to craft more openings, often marauding at will unchallenged. With Nugent keeping centre halves Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci occupied, there was an air of paranoia surrounding the second goal.
After superb wingplay it was the latter who nodded a sumptuous cross into his own net, positional sense abandoned, with Nugent’s potency clearly on his mind.
The only response in the first period was a Mirco Antenucci effort from a tight angle, easily saved and a wayward Alex Mowatt shot, dragged considerably wide of the mark.
While the second period brought a major spell of dominance from the West Yorkshire side, it was quite transparently what Aitor Karanka’s men were expecting, who were content to shut up shop and play on the counter-attack.
Charlie Taylor provided a constant threat down the left, while new boy Jordan Botaka showed lively glimpses, though an apparent unwillingness to really lay siege to the hosts’ goal was prevalent.
Leeds were perhaps unlucky not have pulled a goal back midway through the second period, when Antenucci appeared to have beaten the offside trap and tuck it into the goal, however, replays show that his hastiness cost his team, with goal chalked off and the striker marginally offside.
With Uwe Rosler’s side increasing their urgency late on with time slipping away, it was Bamba who readied himself to build from the back once more, only to lose concentration and slip, gifting the ball to Diego Fabrini who made the scoreline academic to score Boro’s third who go one point behind Championship leaders Brighton.