Middlesbrough 3 Leeds United 0: Awful errors cost Whites

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LEEDS UNITED paid a heavy price for two horrendous defensive mistakes as Middlesbrough piled on the pain for the Whites to end their Riverside hoodoo against them with a 3-0 win.

To put the tin lid on a tough afternoon for United, a hugely controversial moment denied the visitors a goal on 56 minutes when a strike from Mirco Antenucci was ruled out for offside after he had seemingly reduced the arrears to 2-1.

Antenucci netted the rebound after Gaetano Berardi’s shot was diverted into his path, with the linesman not raising a flag.

Referee Neil Swarbrick then consulted with his official and after a brief delay, elected to rule out the strike, to the considerable ire of United.

That said, Leeds were the architects of their own downfall on Teesside, as they suffered only their second loss in 14 visits as Boro make it seven wins on the spin in all competitions - equalling a record set twenty years ago.

Trailing 1-0 to an early opener from David Nugent, a horror moment in the 33rd minute from the recalled Giuseppe Bellusci doubled the hosts tally, with the defender inexplicably heading a George Friend cross past Marco Silvestri.

After dominating much of the second half, another appalling pass of defensive play sealed the deal for Boro with Whites captain Sol Bamba slipping in the box, with substitute Diego Fabbrini keeping his composure to round Silvestri and fire home from a narrow angle.

The Teessiders, roared on by a big home crowd, drew first blood after just three minutes when excellent work down the right from Cristhian Stuani bamboozled Charlie Taylor and while the rest of the United rearguard dithered, Nugent nipped in to fire his third goal of the season past Silvestri from close range.

Boro swarmed all over Leeds in the early stages and almost doubled their tally when Albert Adomah’s cross was chested towards his own goal by Bamba, with Silvestri forced to make a flying save.

Leeds weathered the early storm and Antenucci forced Dimi Konstantopoulos to save his angled shot on 18 minutes.

Just when the visitors were making inroads, they then proceeded to shot themselves in the foot.

Bellusci, who had a wretched first-half, inexplicably headed a cross from Friend past the stranded Silvestri to double Boro’s lead on 33 minutes.

Stuart Dallas then saw a shot held by Boro custodian Dimi before he made a scrambling save to dent Alex Mowatt, wearing a head bandage after being given lengthy attention after a challenge in midfield.

The half ended with Stuani seeing his header deflected for a corner before Dani Ayala turned an effort wide following a Grant Leadbitter corner, with Leeds looking susceptible to crosses all half.

Already on a yellow card, Stuani escaped a second caution early in the second period after fouling Taylor, with referee Swarbrick having a long chat with home captain Grant Leadbitter afterwards.

Leeds’ defensive deficiencies flared up again when Silvestri was forced to tip away a Bamba header and prevent a second own goal.

To their credit, Leeds looked more purposeful going forward, with Jordan Botaka enjoying an encouraging debut.

The visitors went desperately close to reducing the arrears eight minutes in when Dimi made a instinctive save to claw away Alex Mowatt’s goal-bound free-kick as the young United midfielder sought to follow up his Riverside strike in February.

Then came the massive moment of controversy when Swarbrick cancelled out a strike from Antenucci after consulting with his lineman, who did not flag, after the Italian strike after Berardi’s shot was diverted into his path.

It was the harshest of calls for Leeds, who deserved reward after starting the second half with plenty of offensive threat.

Soon after, more slick play for United saw Botaka’s excellent cross met by Antenucci in front of goal, but his header was straight at Dimi.

Play proceeded to get scrappy with Boro happy to play on the break, but despite pressure from Leeds, the home rearguard held firm.

With nine minutes to go, a gift from Bamba then enabled Fabbrini to seal the victory.

Middlesbrough: Dimi, Kalas, Ayala, Amorebieta, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter (Forshaw 87), Downing, Adomah (Nsue 76), Stuani (Fabbrini 56), Nugent. Unused substitutes: Mejias, Gibson, Kike, De Pena.

Leeds United: Silvestri, Berardi, Bellusci, Bamba, Taylor, Adeyemi, Cook, Mowatt, Botaka (Doukara 65), Antenucci, Dallas (Murphy 79). Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Wootton, Cooper, Phillips, Byram.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).

Attendance: 27,694 (2,652 Leeds supporters).