|Leeds United 0 v 0 Middlesbrough|
Friday, 31st August 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Leeds United 0-0 Middlesbrough - a well-earned point from a well-balanced battle
Saturday, 1st Sep 2018 10:21 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United maintained their unbeaten run under Marcelo Bielsa’s tutelage as they played out a laborious 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough on Friday night - one that will hardly be adhesive to the mind.
There was nothing to separate the two sides in what was a glaring stalemate that saw Middlesbrough in particular desert any pretence of playing attacking football, and the match was further marred by a series of impetuous fouls that impeded Leeds as they sought to find their rhythm.
Clear-cut chances were seldom fashioned by either side, and those in attendance were made to wait until the 23rd minute for an effort on target; Middlesbrough’s Jonny Howson tested Bailey Peacock-Farrell with a low drive from outside the box, before Britt Assombalonga headed over from a corner.
With half-time fast approaching, Leeds responded with two efforts from Jack Harrison, who saw a meek header collected and a straightforward shot saved by Darren Randolph in the Boro goal.
The second half was nearly as bereft of chances as the first, and the only real threat to the stalemate was Daniel Ayala’s 88th-minute header from point-blank range - an attempt that elicited a truly marvellous reaction save from Peacock-Farrell, who displayed excellent reflexes to push the ball round the post and preserve his third clean sheet of the campaign.
United were presented with a decent chance to steal all three points from what was a keenly-fought encounter when substitute Patrick Bamford won a free-kick in a propitious position in the final minute of time added on, but Barry Douglas’s curling strike lacked power and conviction and Randolph collected the ball with ease.
This was followed by the last blast of the referee’s whistle, which was greeted with applause from both sets of supporters - but notably, and tellingly, those in the away end appeared rather more content with the outcome than were the home fans.
Summary: a well-balanced battle of starkly different styles
This match had aroused much intrigue and anticipation before kick-off, with league leaders United facing second-placed Middlesbrough, but in the end, a mediocre battle of two markedly different styles failed to produce a victor.
Leeds remained true to their high-pressing and ball-keeping, and enjoyed a hegemony of possession without posing any kind of potent attacking threat, perhaps owing in part to the absence of Pablo Hernandez, whilst Boro relied upon quick, direct balls and set-pieces as they sought to steal a goal on the periphery.
United were predictable, and obstinately refused to adopt an alternative approach to repeatedly crossing the ball into the area - and this played into the hands of a hefty Middlesbrough rearguard, who headed clear time and time and time again. Equally, the visitors’ dependence on set-pieces also proved ineffectual, with Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper in particular marshalling the likes of Daniel Ayala and Aden Flint well.
It was most certainly a case of two well-managed and well-balanced teams cancelling one another out, and despite the dour and drab nature of the affair, which was interspersed with some utterly ludicrous fouls, neither side will be unduly disappointed with the draw, which was by far the most just outcome.
Leeds now have two weeks to prepare themselves to an arduous trip to Millwall, and can reflect upon a table-topping August with much pride as they head into September.
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Peacock-Farrell; Ayling, Berardi (Jansson 88’), Cooper, Douglas; Phillips; Harrison (Dallas 90+1’), Saiz, Klich, Alioski; Roofe (Bamford 90’).
Unused Subs: Blackman, Pearce, Baker, Roberts.
Middlesbrough (3-4-2-1): Randolph; Ayala, Flint, Fry; Shotton, Bešić, Clayton, Friend; Downing, Howson; Assombalonga.
Unused Subs: Konstantopolous, McQueen, McNair, Wing, Leadbitter, Hugill, Braithwaite.
Match Statistics (Leeds / M’boro)
Shots: 11 / 9
On target: 3 / 3
Possession: 62% / 38%
Corners: 6 / 5
Fouls: 11 / 16
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Booked: Berardi, Cooper, Douglas, Saiz (Leeds). Ayala, Flint, Besic, Clayton (M’boro).
Man of the match: Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds).
Photo: Action Images
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