Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1: Whites hold firm to edge epic on Monk’s return to Elland Road

GET IN THERE: Pablo Hernandez celebrates scoring Leeds United's opener in front of an ecstatic South Stand.
GET IN THERE: Pablo Hernandez celebrates scoring Leeds United's opener in front of an ecstatic South Stand.
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LEEDS UNITED held firm to record a much-needed 2-1 victory against Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough as part of a Sunday lunch-time Championship thriller at Elland Road.

After Boro had twice gone close in the 20th minute, Pablo Hernandez pounced at the far left post just four minutes later to convert a curling cross from Gjanni Alioski to give United a 1-0 lead at the break.

The Whites then doubled their advantage nine minutes after the interval when Hernandez this time set up Alioski to also finish at the far post.

But Elland Road had to endure an extremely tense finale after Boro were awarded a hotly disputed 77th minute penalty from which Britt Assombalonga sent Andy Lonergan the wrong way.

Elland Road then had to endure seven minutes of added time but Leeds held firm to record a precious victory, easing the pressure on head coach Thomas Christiansen and sending the Whites back up to seventh.

Leeds survived Boro’s claims for a ninth-minute penalty after Gaetano Berardi held back Assombalonga from a corner.

Boro then twice went close in the 20th minute when first Assombalonga’s cut back narrowly failed to find Marcus Tavernier who only needed the slightest touch to convert.

The ball was cleared to Stewart Downing whose high effort then required a decent save from Whites ‘keeper Andy Lonergan.

But just as Boro looked to turn the screw, United took a 24th-minute lead when a right-flank cross from Alioski was flicked on by Kalvin Phillips to Hernandez who produced a fine rising finish at the far left post.

Leeds could have doubled their lead four minutes later when a free-kick on the right hand side landed at the feet of Samu Saiz who smashed a powerful effort over the bar.

Liam Cooper then glanced a header just wide from a Heranandez free-kick shortly before the break.

Leeds were immediately on the front foot after the break but Luke Ayling blazed an opportunity over the bar.

But Boro then squandered a fine chance in the 54th minute through Tavernier and United made the Riversiders pay by doubling their lead through Alioski barely 30 seconds later.

Poor control let down Tavernier who ended up firing over from Braithwaite’s cross.

Leeds hit straight back with a flowing attack which ended with Kemar Roofe playing in Hernandez whose brilliant cross was converted by Alioski at the far post.

The goal sent Elland Road into raptures and Saiz was inches away from making it 3-0 just three minutes later with the Spaniard’s clever low shot cannoning back off the post.

But Ayling then made a crucial goalline clearance to send away a Braithwaite volley for a corner with Lonergan beaten.

As part of an end to end second half, United captain Cooper then should have scored when rising unmarked to win a header from a Hernandez free-kick which the centre-back sent wide.

Boro squandered chances through Tavernier and Assombalonga, both of which flew wide.

But Boro were then awarded a hotly disputed 77th-minute penalty when Ayling clashed with Daniel Ayala in the Boro box.

Assomablonga stepped to take the spot kick and held his nerve to convert from 12 yards with 13 minutes left.

Boro were then inches away from bagging an equaliser with five minutes left when a volley from Braithwaite was somehow deflected past the post for a corner which United cleared.

Leeds then had to survive seven minutes of added time which turned out to be eight but the Whites would not be denied and held on for a precious three points.

Leeds United: Lonergan, Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi, Vieira, Phillips, Saiz (O’Kane 87), Hernandez, Alioski (Pennington 90), Roofe (Ekuban 78). Subs not used: Wiedwald, Anita, Sacko, Grot.

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Roberts, Ayala, Gibson, Friend (Traore 65), Leadbitter (Fletcher 71), Howson, Tavernier (Johnson 56), Braithwaite, Downing, Assombalonga. Subs not used: Dimi, Fabio, Fry, Forshaw.

Referee: Keith Stroud.

Attendance: 33,771.

Matt Smith

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