Match Report: Leeds United 4-0 Middlesbrough - Klich at the double at Whites thrash Boro
Saturday, 30th Nov 2019 21:12 by Lucas Monk
Mateusz Klich conjured a splendid showing and scored two goals as Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship with a resounding 4-0 victory over struggling Middlesbrough at Elland Road.
Klich brought an effulgent vigour and panache to a gelid and overcast afternoon in West Yorkshire, and scored a goal in either half whilst playing a metronomic role in United’s collective dominance of the ball. Helder Costa and Patrick Bamford also got themselves on the scoresheet to inflict an especially grievous defeat upon an injury-hit Middlesbrough.
Having battled their way to a slender 1-0 victory away to Reading earlier in the week, Leeds were in no mood to spurn the initiative and give visiting manager Jonathan Woodgate an enjoyable return to his old stomping ground. In a brusque statement of intent, Luke Ayling flashed two left-footed shots a smidgeon wide of the Middlesbrough goal in quick succession. This was a warning the away side failed to heed, and Bamford soon punished them in breaking the deadlock and biting the hand that once fed him.
Jack Harrison raced up the left and delivered into the box a cross of unerring accuracy, which Bamford headed toward goal. The callow Aynsley Pears, deputising for the injured Darren Randolph in the visitors’ net, produced quite the goalkeeping vagary. He kept out the initial effort, but parried the ball into the path of Pablo Hernandez, who promptly sent over a second cross to the back post. Bamford made quite sure that Leeds took an early lead after just three minutes, planting, with newfound confidence, a good header into the net.
The hosts refused to relent. Six minutes later, Bamford might have had a second goal against his erstwhile employers. A sliced clearance flew up into the air, and he struck it toward the bottom corner. On this occasion, Pears did his job and held the ball well.
Still Middlesbrough struggled to break free of the adamantine chains United had put them in. Hernandez found Ayling inside the area. Another left-footed shot, and another near miss. It would surely be a matter of time before Leeds found that elusive second goal and put the result beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Thereafter, against the run of play, Middlesbrough started to find some semblance of composure. For whatever reason, United allowed them back into the contest somewhat. Lewis Wing fired a harmless shot wide, but this play represented Boro’s first foray into enemy territory.
But this progress was tortuous and vulnerable. After Kalvin Phillips received a yellow card for a crude challenge on Dael Fry, Leeds regained clear control of proceedings on the stroke of half-time. Harrison lofted a lovely pass over the visiting defence and Bamford sprung onto it before passing for Klich, whose deflected shot bobbled past Pears and into the net. Up went a second booming roar of the afternoon. It may have been cold, but United were in red-hot form.
The hosts were utterly ruthless, and continued their assault on the Middlesbrough goal after the restart. Harrison smacked a shot toward goal at the back post and again Pears did well to keep the scoreline respectable by parrying it behind for a corner. From it, Klich fired a shot over the bar. Stuart Dallas then played a delightful ball through to Bamford, but Pears kept him out with an irritable defiance.
Middlesbrough were forlorn and bedraggled and they struggled to avert a third United goal for long. The home side had were producing wave after wave of attack. The bulk of the game was taking place in the visitors’ half. It was no surprise, then, when Costa, with great persistence, charged into the box and crashed a fierce shot into the net on 67 minutes. A third goal and a third roar, and Boro were now going out with a most pathetic whimper.
Klich rounded off the rout six minutes later, and in spectacular style. A cunning corner routine involving Hernandez and Phillips finessed for him an inviting pocket of space in which to receive the ball and send it arching through the air into the far corner with Pears a helpless spectator. Notwithstanding Middlesbrough’s statuesque defending, it was a fine goal.
As a contest, the match was now at an end. Leeds withdrew Costa, Phillips and Bamford and spent the remainder of the match retaining possession and conserving their energy. An audible approval greeted the full-time whistle, and United’s obtaining three precious points to return to the top of the table.
Yes, Middlesbrough are injury-ravaged, bereft of confidence and ideas and, especially if they keep faith in the clueless Woodgate for much longer, almost certainly doomed, but this was as good a performance as Leeds have produced all season, and they punctuated it with a surgical precision in terms of their finishing. This win represents a fifth in succession for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, who next face the small matter of a local derby at Huddersfield in a week’s time. They will be without Kalvin Phillips, whose booking in this match bars him from featuring, but not without confidence after this resounding win.
Leeds United (3-3-3-1): Casilla; Ayling, White, Cooper; Dallas, Phillips (Berardi 83’), Klich; Costa (Alioski 76’), Hernandez, Harrison; Bamford (Nketiah 79’).
Unused subs: Miazek, Douglas, Stevens, Clarke.
Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Pears; McNair, Ayala, Fry; Howson, Wing (Liddle 70’), Tavernier, Saville, Bola; Assombalonga (O’Neill 77’), Fletcher (Walker 90’).
Unused subs: Mejias, Wood, Reading, Clayton.
Match Statistics (Leeds / Boro):
Possession: 70% / 30%
Shots: 16 / 7
On target: 10 / 1
Corners: 4 / 1
Fouls: 11 / 19
Referee: Keith Stroud.
Booked: Phillips, Bamford (Leeds). McNair, Ayala, Howson (Boro).
Man of the match: Mateusz Klich (Leeds).
Photo: Action Images
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