Graham Smyth's Verdict: Points were being made all over the pitch as Leeds United took three from Middlesbrough mauling

Mateusz Klich did not play at all for Leeds United in November 2017 and made just two more first-team appearances before being shipped off to FC Utrecht on loan the following January.

Sunday, 1st December 2019, 11:46 am

You're making a mistake, he said to United chiefs, sitting in the boardroom at Elland Road where the temporary move to Holland was being finalised. Klich vowed to come back and prove them wrong.

His point has long been made, his redemption story long since completed thanks to a stellar 2018/19 season, the season of his life, as he calls it.

But it doesn't hurt to remind everyone just how right he was and the two goals he scored in Saturday's 4-0 mauling of Middlesbrough illustrated the point perfectly and helped give Leeds five wins from five, their first ever perfect November on record.

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Marcelo Bielsa's men took just three points from the win, but points were being made all over the pristine Elland Road pitch.

Patrick Bamford took just three minutes to make his.

Boro fans opened the curtain on pantomime season nice and early, booing their former striker's first touch of the ball.

His critics, winding up for another go at his profligacy and armed with the header he saw saved by Aynsley Pears, were silenced before they could unload, Pablo Hernandez picking up the loose ball and giving Bamford another go with an inch perfect cross. From villain to hero in five seconds.

Patrick Bamford heading in the opener (Pic: Getty)

The return to fitness, the first-team picture and the substitutes' bench of Eddie Nketiah had made it all the more important for Bamford to show the Arsenal youngster exactly what is required to lead the line for Leeds.

Every side of his game was on display in the first half, the good, the bad and the things that make opposition fans loathe him. He was dominant against Daniel Ayala, a centre-half known for his ability to get under the skin. When Bamford didn't win the ball, he would win free-kicks, or at least leave referee Keith Stroud and everyone else with the impression that he had been mortally wounded and it visibly wound up the wind-up merchant of Middlesbrough.

Running onto Stuart Dallas' ball over the top and channelling his Nottingham High School rugby union days by flicking out a hand to try and knock the ball past Pears brought a yellow card and further boos from the away end.

And then, all of a sudden, in the final seconds of the first half and before anyone could tell Ayala 'he's behind you' Bamford set up the second goal, sprinting onto Harrison's long pass and pulling the back back for Klich whose deflected shot found the net.

Mateusz Klich curling in the fourth and final goal (Pic: Getty)

The Bamford show continued after the interval, but others took centre stage.

Luke Ayling might have feared for his position, sitting watching from the sidelines in the late stages of his post-op rehabilitation, as the season kicked off without him and Dallas turned in a number of imperious right-back displays. But circumstances have dictated a move into the middle for the Ulsterman and Ayling, on this display, won't be shifted from the defence without an almighty scrap. The ball was touched more times by Ayling than anyone else and almost every one of them was good.

Kiko Casilla continues to maintain full concentration in his role as a bystander who might be called upon once or twice. The gaffes of last season do not define the 2019/20 version of Leeds' number one.

Helder Costa, who will eventually become the most expensive addition to this Leeds squad when the payment plan is fulfilled, is yet to live up to his price tag.

The promising cameos he made as an early season substitute gave way to some underwhelming displays as a starting winger, but he has been growing into the role and took, in Bielsa's post-match words, a step forward against Boro.

A rasping 67th-minute strike, after a trademark dribble that saw him somehow squeeze himself and the ball through a seemingly non-existent gap, gave him his first ever Championship goal and some end product to go with the tricks and pace he brings.

The third goal killed the game entirely as a contest - Boro had gamely turned it into an end-to-end affair for a brief, entertaining spell, but paid the ultimate price for giving Leeds too much time and space in the final third.

It was brave of Jonathan Woodgate to come to Elland Road and play two up front, it was naive of his players to stand off the likes of Pablo Hernandez in the centre of the park. And it was unforgivable to gift the Spaniard, Kalvin Phillips and Kich the freedom of LS11 for a fourth goal that turned the scoreline into a rout.

Corner kicks had become a talking point in the days leading up to the game, so ineffective had Leeds been in that regard despite winning more of them than all their Championship rivals.

There are few sticks with which anyone could reasonably beat this United team, but corners was one of them.

In one swift, slick short corner routine, they made the point that there isn't much they can't do when Bielsa, his staff and the squad put their minds to it.

Phillips to Hernandez, back to Phillips, out to Klich on the edge of the box, bang. The thunderbolt that the Pole sent curling into the net brought the house down and the curtain, on a complete performance.

Leeds did threaten an encore, Phillips' direct free-kick threatening to find the same corner that Klich picked out before Nketiah made his highly anticipated comeback from injury, albeit without ever being presented with a chance to do what he does best.

There was room for one more point to be made, Bielsa withdrawing Phillips, whose yellow card for a rash, late first half challenge will see him suspended for the trip to Huddersfield, sending on Gaetano Berardi and allowing Ben White to push on into midfield. The Argentine has previously stated his belief that the Brighton centre-half could lay in Phillips' position and for a little under 10 minutes that's what White did, giving a less than subtle hint as to how Bielsa will cope without his homegrown enforcer next weekend.

Boro, egos battered and bruised, were spared further humiliation after the game as Woodgate chose to laud Leeds and Bielsa refused to pour salt on fresh wounds, talking more about the visitors' injury crisis than his own team's superiority.

The gulf in quality was evident enough and the scoreline made Woodgate's point that he'll need January reinforcements better than he could in words.

As for United, they are a team enjoying more and more independence having earned the trust of their detail-obsessive head coach. They are purring along, building momentum, sitting top [at least until Monday night] and nailed on for the title if some bookies are to be believed. Surely this is it? Surely this is the season?

Someone was going to get a hiding, it just so happened to be Middlesbrough and the floodgates will now open, it's all goals and wins from here on in, isn't it?

"Their full-back, two centre-backs, playmakers, too many important players out of the team to think that Middlesbrough we've seen today is the real Middlesbrough," said Bielsa.

"The players they missed were important players and if they had all the players maybe the match would be more difficult.

"We have to give some value to the current position in the table because in a league like the Championship the future is built match by match. But the most important [thing] is consistency in every match to make a difference.

"We all know there is a long way forward. It is a long competition."

Point taken.