|Middlesbrough 3 v 0 Leeds United|
Friday, 2nd March 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Middlesbrough 3-0 Leeds United - Bamford strikes thrice as Boro batter Whites
Saturday, 3rd Mar 2018 11:12 by @LucasMonk_
Middlesbrough’s Patrick Bamford claimed his first career hat-trick in a resounding triumph for the hosts...
Owing to a thoroughly slipshod performance, Leeds United succumbed to an abject defeat at the hands of fellow play-off aspirants Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium - in one of the few matches to stave off the threat of postponement posed by the currently gelid weather in the United Kingdom.
A splendid hat-trick from Patrick Bamford condemned Leeds to a 14th loss of the season, with the former Chelsea prodigy scoring in the 31st, 36th and 68th minutes respectively - and the defeat appears to have eradicated fully United’s prospects of a top six finish.
Paul Heckingbottom elected to field an unchanged starting lineup, one again employing a 4-2-3-1 formation, after his charges worsted Brentford 1-0 in their last outing with an eminently workmanlike performance. Midfielder Adam Forshaw was recalled to the matchday squad and named as a substitute after missing that match due to his wife’s being in labour, whilst Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe remained absent with injury.
The hosts, overtly anxious to record a victory that would catapult them into the coveted play-off places, would make much of the early running.
Ryan Shotton produced a sumptuous cross from the right channel in the fifth minute and had Stewart Downing connected with the delivery, Tony Pulis’s men would surely have been ahead.
Adama Traore, a fleet-footed winger and a graduate of FC Barcelona’s venerated La Masia academy, then earned a corner for his team in the ninth minute. Patrick Bamford subsequently chanced his arm, after Leeds had failed to clear their lines from the set-piece delivery, with a left-footed effort but United goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald was able to parry the shot momentarily clear before gathering a weak effort by Jonny Howson.
Leeds responded with their first meaningful foray into the Middlesbrough half. Ezgjan Alioski surged upfield before the ball fell serendipitously for Samuel Saiz, who then lashed a wild effort over the crossbar with 13 minutes elapsed.
The home side then won two consecutive corners, the second of which was met well by the head of defender Ben Gibson - though he could only direct his effort wide of the mark.
United then mimicked their opponents by doing the same, with Pontus Jansson heading wide from Alioski’s corner in the 23rd minute.
The match had been something of a ding-dong battle, though Middlesbrough appeared immeasurably more potent when marauding forth into the Leeds half.
And the hosts were rewarded for their application of attacking pressure in the 31st minute, after Ryan Shotton earned a corner on the right flank. As they had done earlier in the half, Leeds failed to defend the set-piece adequately. After initially clearing the danger, United were too slovenly to close down Downing, who quickly cut infield, onto his favoured left foot, and produced a delivery of class and precision that was brilliantly guided home by Bamford with the deftest of flicks.
The goal had perchance been an inevitability; matters soon got even worse for Leeds just minutes thereafter.
After a United attack came to zilch, Traore was meekly permitted to glide effortlessly past three defenders, surging forward apace from his own half, before playing Bamford in on goal. Having already opened the scoring, Bamford, who may have been fractionally offside, doubled his tally for the evening with a low, driven left-footed finish - though visiting goalkeeper Wiedwald most certainly could have done better. Two goals in five minutes - a devastating double salvo.
Leeds were a lost cause; forlorn, feeble and futile. Middlesbrough might have had a third if Gibson, who was again presented with an opportunity to score his second goal of the season, had been more accurate with another headed attempt resulting from a corner on the threshold of the half-time interlude.
At half time, Paul Heckingbottom vainly attempted to stem the gushing, raging red tide. Alioski and Kalvin Phillips were withdrawn and replaced by Adam Forshaw and Ronaldo Vieira.
Sluggishly, Leeds flickered and whirred into life like a rudimentary computer from the 1990s. During the second period’s youth, Jansson twice headed high and wide following corners, whilst Saiz, who earned one of them, saw a shot blocked. But the Leodensian 3000, having only been booted up just moments prior, was then promptly and decisively shut down.
Downing was chiefly involved in a flurry of Middlesbrough attacks, with a woefully inaccurate Pierre-Michel Lasogga blast betwixt, before Bamford sealed his first career hat-trick in the 68th minute of the match. Traore alacritously burst infield and unleashed a low shot that fortuitously deflected off Jansson and into the path of the clearly offside Bamford, who swiftly pounced like a predating tiger to score his third of the match, finishing well with his left foot past the hapless Wiedwald.
Match Gallery: 11 photos
Middlesbrough, despite their now comfortable advantage, refused to relent and they could have increased their eventual margin of victory on three occasions. George Friend went close on 72 minutes with a low drive that fizzed narrowly wide, before Daniel Ayala headed over from a freekick and then a corner.
Not once in the game’s remainder did Leeds threaten to deprive Darren Randolph, the home goalkeeper, of a clean sheet. Halting, with minimal effort, Caleb Ekuban’s timid shot after latching onto a through ball by fellow substitute Forshaw was the only notable act the former Birmingham shot-stopper had to perform.
The United players were justly booed by their travelling contingent of supporters - who had overcome treacherous conditions to be in attendance - as they idly trudged off the field, having been condemned to a defeat that surely means that yet another season is competitively over well before its actual conclusion.
Middlesbrough (4-3-3): Randolph; Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Howson, Leadbitter (Clayton 44’), Besic; Traore, Bamford (Cranie 90’), Downing.
Unused Subs: Konstantopoulos, Fry, Baker, Harrison, Assombalonga.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Wiedwald; Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, Anita; Phillips (Vieira 45’), O’Kane (Ekuban 69’); Alioski (Forshaw 45’), Saiz, Dallas; Lasogga.
Unused Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Pennington, De Bock, Sacko.
Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Leadbitter (Middlesbrough), Cooper, Anita, Saiz (Leeds).
Man of the Match: Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough).
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Photo: Action Images
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