On a totally bonkers night at Elland Road, a much-needed tonic was injected into the veins of every Whites fan and indeed those that represent the club. In a match that bread confusion, anger, ridicule and outright, tremendous rapture, Leeds United managed to create an atmosphere that simply melted the face with venom.
The result of such ferocious and bloodthirsty support was a vastly needed 3-2 victory for Leeds United, a victory that propelled them back to the summit of the Championship and went a long way to appease the long-suffering and Leeds-adoring fan base following a meagre run of form recently.
The game started with a resurgent and high-tempo Millwall team under Gary Rowett, really taking the game to Leeds United, in their faces for every ball and forcing mistake after mistake from a team that looked very nervous in the opening exchanges, culminating in the visitors taking the lead after only four minutes through a Shaun Hutchinson header from a Jed Wallace corner.
This appeared to wake the hosts up somewhat, but their efforts to create chances resulted in tame and indecisive efforts on goal from both Patrick Bamford and Stuart Dallas respectively, but the beast that is Elland Road were not satisfied one bit as taunts and jeers filled the air.
The home fans mood wasn’t helped by a refereeing performance that rivals the very worse I have seen in my years watching football, as the man in the middle appeared to be relishing the attention he was getting and it didn’t seem to matter to him and his assistants that 34000 people were noticing gleaming error after gleaming error.
Decisions like a goal kick for Millwall after a Stuart Dallas shot was well saved by Bartosz Bialkowski, a corner to Leeds given and then retracted by the referee and the icing on the cake, a clear overlooking of a ball being out of play on the Millwall attack that lead to the visitors being given a penalty in the twenty-third minute was threatening to teeter the home crowd over the edge.
From the resulting penalty, Jed Wallace expertly tucked away Millwall’s second goal, low to Kiko Casilla’s right, making the atmosphere inside Elland Road a highly toxic one… roll on half time.
Whatever Marcelo Bielsa said or fed his players at half time, it worked as the Whites came out of the traps like a tornado, hell-bent on righting their first half wrongs, playing some football that even Millwall boss Gary Rowett said was ”a bit of a lesson” to the Lions, silky movement, fluid passing and an energy and thirst that saw them half the arrears after just three minutes of the re-start.
A Pablo Hernandez corner wriggled its way through to Jack Harrison who’s shot was brilliantly parried by Bialkowski, but only to the feet of Patrick Bamford a yard out who tucked away his eleventh goal of the season… no celebrations, just an urgency to regain the ball and get restarted.
Hernandez himself got in on the act on the 62ndsixty-second minute, a wonderful move down Leeds’ left through Alioski and Harrison culminated in a very dangerous low ball across the six-yard box, miraculously missed by everyone, before being pumped back in and being cleared to the edge where the little Spanish wizard controlled and volleyed, maybe with a slight deflection, into Bialkowski’s bottom-right corner… game on!
Celebrations were now rapturous, the belief coursing through the ground and transmitting onto the pitch where the likes of Helder Costa, Mateusz Klich and Gianni Alioski appeared to be possessed and decided to totally boss the game, the third goal was coming, the pressure being put on the Lions was immense, their knees couldn’t possibly hold… could they?
In the 64th minute, an answer, another relentlessly quick Leeds attack eventually fell to the feet of Luke Ayling, who’s beautiful cross was not wasted as a hungry Bamford pounced between two giant centre-halves to finish the come-back and silence a few critics with a brilliant and emphatic header from close range… Elland Road exploded into a crazed animal.
Chances came and went for both sides during the next half an hour, but the overwhelming feeling emitting from the ground was one of pride and relief. The fans sang hard, they sang proudly and, wow, did they sing loud as their men in white managed to see out a job impressively done.
If Leeds can use this as the massively needed catalyst in changing their recent fortunes, Charlton at home on May 2nd promises to be one hell of a party.
Kiko Casilla- 6- Decent save in the second half but looked a shadow of his normally-assured self at times.
Luke Ayling- 7- At fault for both Millwall goals but made up for it with his energy and assist in the second half.
Ezgjan Alioski- 8- Unrivalled energy down the left side for the Whites.
Ben White- 8- Assured, reliable and determined- changed the game moving into midfield second half.
Liam Cooper- 7- Sturdy and strong as usual, typical captains performance.
Stuart Dallas- 7- Full of energy, sweats blood for his teammates, needs a position to call home.
Mateusz Klich- 8- Never dipped all game, intricate passing with Hernandez a joy to behold but missed the easiest chance of the game from five yards.
Pablo Hernandez- 9– Pulled the strings in Leeds’ midfield, every move had his influence,. On his day, best in the Championship.
Helder Costa- 8- Caused problems all night down the right, hit the bar second half, getting better.
Jack Harrison- 7- Couple of wonderful saves kept him off the score sheet, but a thorn in the side down the left as usual.
Patrick Bamford- 9- Worked unbelievably hard, silenced many critics and won his team the points. Brilliant dancer.
Jamie Shackleton- 6- Very late, didn’t have time to influence the game.
One thing is for sure, if Leeds United harness this result properly, they will be playing Premier League football next season.