Leeds United increased their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship in amazing style as they scored twice in injury-time to beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2.
Despite dominating for much of a Boxing Day cracker the Whites found themselves 2-1 behind to a penalty and a free-kick going into added time, but cometh the hour come the man with striker Kemar Roofe netting twice.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men had led at the break from a Derrick Williams own goal and looked comfortable, but after Charlie Mulgrew levelled with a penalty straight after half-time they could not put the finishing touches to their attacking play and it remained 1-1 until an incredible finish saw three goals in five minutes.
Blackburn must have though they had won it when Bailey Peacock-Farrell failed to keep out Mulgrew’s free-kick in the 89th minute, but it only set the scene for a thrilling finish the like of which has rarely been seen at Elland Road.
First Roofe put away a chance in the box after Pontus Jansson’s header had been superbly saved by keeper David Raya and a follow-up effort by Pablo Hernandez had been blocked on the line.
Then in the final minute Roofe brilliantly headed home from an equally superb cross by Hernandez to send most in the 34,863 crowd into raptures of delight.
There was little sign that heroics would be needed early on as Leeds quickly got their game flowing. They struggled to carve out clear openings, but the football was high standard with only the final ball missing.
Luke Ayling sent a shot from range wide while Jack Rodwell’s shot from 20 yards out was closer at the other end and Danny Graham saw a snap shot go well over.
Ezgjan Alioski brought the first save out of a goalkeeper with a 20-yard shot that was tipped over following a smart move started by an outrageous turn on the edge of his own box by Pontus Jansson.
Jack Harrison then saw his shot deflected wide following another sweeping move.
Harrison was enjoying an improved game on the left flank and his low cross led to United going in front as visiting defender Williams could only put the ball into his own goal.
Two minutes later Alioski came within a whisker of doubling the lead as his curling shot hit the crossbar. The dame player also saw an acrobatic volley comfortably saved by Raya.
Leeds fans were left stunned in the opening minute of the second half as a couple of mistakes led to Blackburn being awarded a penalty as Ayling was judged to have fouled Graham inside the area with a mistimed sliding challenge. Mulgrew stepped up to score from the spot and it was game on.
Leeds took charge again, however, with Alioski seeing a strike well held by the keeper and Mateusz Klich also having his bending low shot equally well held.
Alioski’s teasing ball into the box almost fell for Roofe and the striker should probably had done better when substitute Clarke immediately crossed the ball back in, but the forward was a little slow to react.
Klich shot wide from the edge of the box, Hernandez had a shot well blocked and Roofe’s header was well saved by Raya. It looked like a goal had to come, but Blackburn remained dangerous on the break and it took a timely interception by Jansson to deny Bradley Dack.
It was beginning to look like it was not going to be United’s day when Hernandez’s shot in the area was deflected wide and Adam Forshaw’s 25-yard shot was well held by the more than capable Raya.
When the visitors were awarded a free-kick 22 yards out Mulgrew seemed to surprise home keeper Peacock-Farrell when he shot instead of crossed and the ball went into the net despite the stopper getting a hand to the ball.
However, this Whites team never seems to know when it is beaten and they produced their big finish with Roofe’s goals giving them a memorable victory. With Norwich only drawing thanks to late goals they have gone three points clear at the top,
Bielsa was obviously pleased to have picked up the three points and felt the side was good value for their seventh victory in a row.
He said: “We deserved to win the game so winning as we won today we have to analyse it, but we cannot say it was unfair to win the game in this way because we did everything we could to win it.
“We needed to have more impact in the first half and in the second half we didn’t defend as well as the first.
“But it was clear in the first we deserved to win the game by two goals. But in the second half we could have lost the game because there was more danger in our area.
“At the end of the first half we didn’t imagine that we would have to win the way we did.
“It was moving for all of us at the end. In football you can have emotions that reach a high level and that’s why nothing is comparable to football in this way.”
Leeds United 3
(Williams og 33, Roofe 90+1, 90+4)
Blackburn Rovers 2
(Mulgrew 47, pen, 89)
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling (Shackleton 68), Jansson, Phillips, Douglas, Forshaw, Alioski, Klich, Hernandez, Harrison (Clarke 59), Roofe.
Blackburn: Raya, Nyambe (Reed 62), Lenihan, Mulgrew, Williams, Rodwell (Smallwood 68), Armstrong (Rothwell 74), Evans, Dack, Bell, Graham.
Referee: Stephen Martin