Mirco Antenucci sank Championship leaders Derby County with a fine brace at Elland Road and then backed Leeds United to match up to the top sides in the division, saying: “We’re as good as any.”
The 30-year-old striker produced his sixth and seventh goals of the season as United secured a welcome league win on Saturday and ended their long wait for a victory over Derby. Leeds had taken two points from 12 previous meetings with County, a winless run stretching back to 2005, but Antenucci’s finishes on 43 and 50 minutes made the most of a strong performance from Neil Redfearn’s side.
He dedicated his goals to his newly-born daughter Camilla, who was among a crowd of more than 26,000, and talked up United’s prospects in their division after an impressive result.
“The match was perfect for us,” Antenucci said. “We needed to win. It was difficult against the first-placed team but we played good. We are growing match after match and I think we’re as good as any team in the Championship. There’s little difference.
“I’m happy with two goals for the first time in England and it gives me great satisfaction. It was extra-special because my daughter was in the stadium.
“The best thing in my life is my family and daughter but in football, this was a special match against one of the best teams in the Championship. It’s a fantastic moment for me.” Antenucci was a late arrival at Elland Road during the summer transfer window, moving from Italian club Ternana seven days before FIFA’s September 1 deadline, and his seven league goals have come from 16 appearances.
His performance on Saturday drew praise from both Redfearn and Derby manager Steve McClaren and Antenucci agreed that the display was the best of his short time at Elland Road. “I think so, yes,” he said. “When I score and we win the match it’s perfect. When I score and we lose, it’s not. When we win I’m happy. It’s important for strikers to score but it’s more important to win.”
Leeds are eight points behind the Championship play-offs after Saturday’s success. Antenucci said: “We need to continue to win because one win and two losses is no good for us.”