Middlesbrough 1-1 Leeds United: Kalvin Phillips rescues late point for Leeds in top of the table clash 
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough 1-1 Leeds United: Kalvin Phillips rescues late point for Leeds in top of the table clash 

Marcelo Bielsa's men left it unbelievably late at the Riverside but came away with a well-earned draw

nestorwatach
Nestor Watach

The points were shared in this huge top six clash at the Riverside Stadium in a game that told us a lot about both sides chances of automatic promotion. 

Middlesbrough dominated the goalless first half in terms of chances and should have gone into the break ahead after Aden Flint and Ryan Shotton missed golden chances to score. 

Leeds United had the lion's share of possession as the majority of play in the opposition half, but as is becoming a theme, failed to convert that into clear cut opportunities. 

Lewis Wing put the hosts ahead shortly after half-time, as found himself in acres of space following a cut-back from George Friend

After a worrying incident in the Leeds dugout delayed play, there were 12 minutes of injury time added. The clock was almost at 100 minutes as Kalvin Phillips was unmarked to head in Liam Cooper's flick-on for the latest of equalisers. Leeds had missed several good opportunities to level but eventually managed. 

Middlesbrough will rue missed chances

Tony Pulis' men were happy to cede possession throughout the first half, and that approach worked nearly worked just as well for Middlesbrough as it did for Norwich in their 3-1 win at Elland Road last week. 

In the first half, Flint managed to head over, which was quite a remarkable feat given that he was practically stood on the goal-line, while a couple of minutes later he headed a good cross wide.

Shortly after that, Shotton got the ball caught under his feet when free inside the six-yard box. Had those chances not fallen to defenders, or if they'd shown the same clinical ability as Norwich last week, Middlesbrough would have taken a comfortable lead into the break.

Eventually, Wing had time and space to finish to put Middlesbrough ahead, and from that point they put more men behind the ball and trusted in their ability to see the game out.

It was an approach that almost worked, although they were given warning signs as Patrick Bamford and Pontus Jansson came close to equalising. Finally, just two minutes before the final whistle, they were breached.

Kalvin Phillips back with a bang for Leeds, but plenty to ponder for Bielsa

The fan favourite was back in his preferred defensive midfield role today, having not featured there in over a month after serving a three-match suspension, using 

There were a couple of rusty moments from Phillips as he was just as culpable of giving the ball away in dangerous areas as Adam Forshaw, but unlike last week they went unpunished.

Questions could also be asked of him and Pablo Hernandez when Wing was afforded space for Middlesbrough's opener, but otherwise, he put in an assured and spirited display.

He was often the embryo of Leeds moves as they pushed for an equaliser and enjoyed their most sustained spells of pressure, while he showed composure to head the ball on target for the latest of late equalisers. 

However, with a squad finally reaching full fitness, there are plenty of areas due scrutiny and potential changes going forward.

Izzy Brown made his first appearance on the bench today and will be pushing for an appearance, while today showed there's a question whether Kemar Roofe and Bamford gel with one another. Jack Harrison continued to lack penetration, while Mateusz Klich and Luke Ayling, in particular, look to be feeling the effects of a long, brutal season.

Takeaways

Middlesbrough's defence so nearly wins them the points

The team with the best defence in the Championship invariably goes up, and this year that's undoubtedly Middlesbrough.

Daniel Ayala, Dael Fry and Flint mostly dealt with what was thrown their way, while Darren Randolph made some key saves to protect the lead. It looked like they had done enough, when finally a late lapse undid what came before.

Still, there was enough here to stand the hosts in good stead for a promotion push and January arrival John Obi Mikel adds genuine class ahead of them. 

Patrick Bamford needs time to get up to speed

Six months after moving from Middlesbrough to Leeds, Patrick Bamford was finally deemed ready to make a first league start after an injury-ravaged campaign. 

The striker was a menace in this fixture last season, scoring a hat-trick against Leeds on their last visit to the Riverside. He's shown glimpses of what he can offer in a Leeds shirt, having come off the bench to score a winner against Bolton and adding a consolation goal against Norwich last week.

But here he was a little off the pace and rusty with his finishing. But minutes will do him good and he could yet become an important cog in the final three months of the season.

Mutual respect counts for little on the pitch 

The pair might have different reputations within the game - Marcelo Bielsa "the high-priest of the high-press", revered by tactics obsessives, and Tony Pulis, a supposed "proper football man" of English football who builds his teams around height and physicality - but they only have respect for one another, as was clear from the pre-match press conferences and the beer they shared after September's goalless draw at Elland Road. 

Both of these teams are moulded in their manager's image, as was clear on the day as Leeds pressed and Middlesbrough sat deep, and both styles have been effective as the two sides battle one another for promotion. But Bielsa came to the Riverside with an uncompromising front-foot gameplan, while Pulis was more than happy for his team to play their usual style.

"He is a very very dedicated man and really obsessed with football and the game so it will be interesting," said Pulis in a pre-match press conference. "Interesting" might be pushing it, but there was certainly drama as the two sides ultimately cancelled one another out in this clash of cultures.

Man of the match 

George Friend came up against multiple Leeds wide men throughout but held his ground against them all, while it was his cutback for Wing that so nearly won it for his team.

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