Bitter rivals Leeds United and Millwall played out one of the games of the Championship season as the South Londoners saw off the Elland Road outfit, and also bagged their first away win of the season, in a mouth watering clash that ended 3-4.
The last five meetings between the two sides had only provided nine goals, with the headlines focusing on events off the pitch rather than on it. However, this time, right from the outset, events on the pitch stole the front pages.
Leeds had the first real opening of the game. Pablo Hernandez floated a lovely ball up to the head of Pierre Michel-Lassoga. It seemed the ball took an age to drop, with the striker seemingly having all the time to place himself correctly. As it was, he agonisingly placed it right into the gloves of a thankful (and furious) Jordan Archer. Perhaps such a miss was to be expected for a striker making his first start since November.
Thomas Christiansen’s side were suitably punished only a matter of minutes later when Gaetano Berardi lost Aiden O’Brien at the back post. O’Brien faced no such problems with his finishing and put Millwall 1-0 up. With Millwall without a win away from home all season, it is unsurprising that their supporters were sent into wild celebrations. This became utopia on the stroke of halftime for the thousand or so Millwall fans that travelled to Leeds as Liam Cooper – Leeds’ captain for the day – dived in needlessly and irresponsibly on the half way line after a horrendous touch.
Christiansen in the week had spoken of Leeds’ playoff push lying in tatters due to the insurmountable amount of injuries they have suffered. The three red cards in as many games certainly have not aided it, either. The game seemed done when just before the break Berardi suffered another comical lapse in concentration, allowing Lee Gregory this time to sneak in behind him and seemingly give Millwall their first away win of the season. Leeds’ run of no wins in four appeared to be extending to five.
Whatever Christiansen said to them at halftime, it worked. Leeds responded instantly, and this time it was Millwall’s turn to look shaky at the back. Shaun Williams missed an opportunities to clear the ball twice, allowing Lassoga some sort of redemption for his earlier missed chance. Full redemption was to come later for the big number nine. He made no mistake, lashing the ball in with his right foot. Leeds had a foothold. Nine minutes later they had an equaliser. Kemar Roofe, the former Oxford United man, pounced on a loose ball in the midst of goalmouth scramble after Archer had lost it. 2-2. From nowhere, Leeds were back in the game.
The ten men of Leeds were now faced with a dilemma. With their knee firmly on the throat of a side that, prior to this game, had only scored 6 goals away from home all season, do they go for a third or sit back and settle for point that only 16 minutes ago looked impossible? Lassoga took the former option. This time it was Roofe’s turn to turn-provider, playing the ball back to Lassoga 25 yards from goal, who without a touch, lashed the ball into the far corner with his weak foot. The Don Revie End had very much forgotten his earlier misfortunes in front of goal.
Leeds’ problems this season have stemmed from the fact that they lose concentration all too quickly for a side that has hopes of promotion. They have conceded the third most goals out of anyone in the top ten, with over half of those coming during the second half. Millwall capitalised on Leeds’ lack of ability to close a game out. First through Tom Elliot, who after Leeds failed to deal with a basic long ball into the middle of their area, pounced and equalised. 87 minutes gone, 3-3: do they stick or twist? Neil Harris went for the latter, forcing his side forward in the dying embers. Jed Wallace drove with the ball, deciding instead to shoot rather than play it wide. It turned out an inspired decision, as the ball deflected up off Pontus Jansson and over Felix Wiedwald to give Millwall the three points.
The result sees Millwall climb to 15th while Leeds find themselves further adrift from the playoff spots, lying in 10th, three points off Sheffield United in 6th.
By Julian Bovill