VITAL GAME: Middlesbrough and Leeds prepare for kick off in what was an eventful game for both teams
Middlesbrough fell to their first loss at the Riverside Stadium for the first time since August in a 1-0 defeat to fierce rivals Leeds United.
A goal from Alex Mowatt inside the first three minutes secured all three points for Leeds and moved them up to 11th place.
Middlesbrough were left frustrated as their 90 minute onslaught, totaling 27 shots, was thwarted at every opportunity by keeper Marco Silvestri.
Leeds had opportunities to extend their lead but Middlesbrough will feel the points should of been theirs and they should be sitting at the top of the Championship.
This game was the early kick off in the day’s Championship figures which meant a win for Boro would see them go four points clear at the top of the table.
Leeds were on a good run of form going into the game winning four of the last five games, and they had only lost one of the last 12 games against Boro.
Middlesbrough were top of the table for a reason going into the game, unbeaten in nine Championship games and unbeaten at home since August.
In a busy month for Boro, seven games in 21 days, Karanka would be looking to keep his team fresh while also maintaining there lead at the top.
He made a total of six changes putting Tomas Mejias in goal for the suspended Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Kalas, Clayton, Reach, Adomah and Kike started at the expense of Fredericks, Forshaw, Bamford, Tomlin and Omeruo.
Middlesbrough came out the traps from the off and were keeping the ball, but a momentary lapse of concentration cost them dearly in terrible circumstances.
Mejias attempted throw was intercepted by Lewis Cook, he then teed up Mowatt (3′) who’s effort deflected off Ben Gibson and left the keeper rooted as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
Minutes later, Grant Leadbitter presented Jelle Vossen with a glorious opportunity fooling everyone with a free kick that he stroked to the edge of the box. Vossen scuffed his shot on goal and the ball was cleared.
The Belgian was a threat all afternoon finding plenty of space playing in the number 10 role behind Kike.
Kike had an opportunity himself, bursting to the right, he had options inside but he elected to go alone and his shot was parried by Silvestri.
Vossen had to more attempts on goal on 20 minutes, a volley that Silvestri did well to save and a hooked effort that was rolling in only to be thwarted by Giuseppe Bellusci.
A Riverside crowd of over 25,000 were getting behind the team with a growing atmosphere that increased the more chances that Boro created.
But Silvestri continued to deflate the atmosphere, denying Kike’s looping effort and reacting well to Clayton’s drive from the edge of the box just after 40 minutes.
Just before the half time whistle, Sol Bamba got on the end of a corner but his header was flashed wide of Mejais right post.
The second half began where the first half left off as Kike’s bending shot from the edge of the box was tipped wide by Silvestri.
Leeds responded with a chance of their own as Scott Wooton crashed a header off the bar from a free kick as the 2,690 strong Leeds section of the stand continued to sing loud and proud.
Kike was left frustrated again as he ran at the defence, opended up his body and shot but his effort was once again denied.
Albert Adomah was proved a constant threat on the right side showing good feet and making a lot of positive runs going forward.
But his crosses we not being met by the head or foot of a Boro player and the Riverside crowd were starting to get anxious just past the hour mark.
Kike was presented with a glorious opportunity, after some brilliant interchange between Adomah, Tomlin and the Spaniard, but a last ditch tackle from Sol Bamba denied him a 10th goal of the season.
Boro decided to go all out for the win bringing on Patrick Bamford and Lee Tomlin at the expense of Adam Reach and Emilio Nsue.
In response, Leeds were sticking 10 men behind the ball and putting their bodies in front of every effort. Relentless attack + committed defending = boiling frustration.
Rodolph Austin had a brilliant chance to double his teams lead but his tame effort went straight down Mejias throat but he still managed to make a mess of it!
Vossen clashed heads with Bellusci leaving the Belgian unconscious for several minutes and prompted a concerned reaction from players, the bench and the crowd.
He was then carried off by paramedics and Middlesbrough’s medical team in a neck brace to a standing ovation from most fans in the stadium. The seriousness of the injury is yet to be revealed.
Karanka had made of all his substitutes before Vossen’s injury leaving his team with 10 men just before the 90 minute mark.
Nine minutes were added on and Boro threw the kitchen sink at Leeds, winning several corners.
No clear cut chances were made in stoppage time and Middlesbrough and the boss will have felt distraught at an undeserved loss.
Lucky for them, Bournemouth also fell to defeat later in the afternoon meaning Boro only fell to second and are now two points off the top of the league.
After the game, Aitor Karanka was not too despondent about the defeat but was instead looking ahead to the game on Tuesday.
He said: “We are still doing very well, everyone has worked hard and we have to keep going in the same way.
“I am not disappointed with our finishing because their keeper was brilliant. I don’t know how we didn’t score but their keeper was man of the match.
“The goal we conceded was disappointing because it should not have happened.
“It is the best thing now is that we have a game on Tuesday (against Bolton). It’s at home as well so it is a chance to bounce back from the defeat to day so it is the best thing.”
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Mejias (GK); Nsue (Bamford 65′), Kalas, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, Leadbitter (C) (Forshaw 79′), Adomah, Vossen, Reach (Tomlin 60′); Kike
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Silvestri (GK); Wooton, Bamba (C), Bellusci (Cooper 90+1), Taylor; Murphy, Austin; Byram, Cook, Mowatt; Morison
Unused subs (Middlesbrough): Ripley, Husband, Omeruo, Whitehead
Unused subs (Leeds United): Cani, Sharp, Berardi, Taylor, Sloth, Antenucci
Goals: Middlesbrough 0 – 1 Leeds United
Possession: Middlesbrough 64% – 36% Leeds United
Shots (on target): Middlesbrough 27 (10) – 8 (3) Leeds United
Corners: Middlesbrough 18 – 3 Leeds United
Fouls: Middlesbrough 13 – 14 Leeds United
Yellow cards: Middlesbrough 1 (Forshaw 80′) – 3 (Bellusci 23′, Bamba 57′, Cooper 90+5′)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Player Ratings 0/10
Tside Man of the Match: Albert Adomah/Marco Silvestri
Tomas Mejias – 5 – Unconvincing, didn’t command his area and his mistake cost the team a goal
Emlio Nsue – 6 – Fairly solid at the back but proved yet again that it his not his best position
Tomas Kalas – 7 – Strong in challenges, read the ball well and didn’t let Morison have a chance
Ben Gibson – 6 – Composed on the ball but he will feel unlucky at the deflection that sent the ball in
George Friend – 7 – Strong at the back and was a threat going forward. Reliable George!
Adam Clayton – 6 – Was a rare poor performance from Clayton, often caught on the ball in the middle
Grant Leadbitter – 7 – Led the teams charge to get back into the game but fell short. Brought off to rest his legs
Albert Adomah – 8 – More of what we want to see from him. Positive runs, good crosses and a nightmare for Leeds
Jelle Vossen – 7 – Found a lot of space in No. 10 role but unfortunately brought off with a nasty looking injury
Adam Reach – 6 – He was a threat on the left but still needs to find the same form from earlier this season
Kike – 7 – He created a lot of chances for himself but failed again in finding the net
Subs: Bamford (6), Tomlin (6), Forshaw (n/a)