Saturday's game was one of those where I could happily take up smoking again...if I had ANY fingers left to hold cigarettes as the 'Boro game had me biting them down to the bone...almost. It seemed that Leeds' bravery wouldn't be enough.
Somehow it was though, it was enough.
It was down to one man.
Marco Silvestri was simply the best man on the field. Part Superhero, part human. Despite it being a team effort during the game to keep Middlesbrough at bay, the ultimate thanks have to be reserved for Silvestri. By the time the final whistle blew, Marco had saved 10 on-target shots. Marco Silvestri has a save% from open play on-target shots of 76% (33 goals conceded from 136 on-target shots from open play). What's even more startling is if you only consider 2015 games since the first Championship game in January; in 2015 he has a save% of 84% from open play shots on-target (4 goals conceded from 25 on-target shots from open play). It might well have been a 'game for the ages' but you can guarantee that it will provide a massive morale boost to Marco Silvestri. The following graphic shows just how intense the action was in the Leeds United goal mouth.
The Bamba/Bellusci partnership was preferred to start this game over the return of fit-again club captain Liam Cooper. Throughout the whole game, Leeds were under immense pressure and you'd have forgiven the defence for breaking but, in the face of adversity often comes strength, and the collated numbers for the game don't lie; Leeds United were under immense pressure all game, well apart from the first three minutes that is. The defensive back four made 11 tackles and only allowed 4 missed tackles (73% success rate) and both Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci had 4 successful tackles each. The other categories often associated with defenders also showed their own story of the duress Leeds' backline were under: 17 passes intercepted (Bellusci with 7 intercepts), 19 blocks of Middlesbrough shots/crosses/passes (Bamba leading the way with 7 blocks) and a season-high 47 clearances (Bellusci and Bamba making 34 between them).
The midfield were understandably quiet in this game such was the dominance of a rampant Middlesbrough side intent on maintaining their excellent home record this term. Leeds' midfield five only attempted 118 passes between them (45.55% of the team's total of 259 passes), further evidence leaning toward the fact that it was 'all hands to the pumps' in defence at times as Leeds attempted to stem the tide sweeping at them. The following graphic really helps to sum up just how ineffective they were as an possession platform as it clearly shows that they didn't command the centre of the field in any cohesive and coherent way.
Only fleeting forays into Middlesbrough territory and the rest of the time they were employed tracking back into their own half, rather than linking up and consolidating a secure base from which to drive the team onwards.
Steve Morison does the hard work; when we are attacking well and pressing teams, he is the lone man up top. Today, he did none of that fancy stuff, it wasn't a day for attacking at all. Like the rest of the team, Morison had to do more than his fair share of defending. He had no shots at all but he did manage to attempts a season-high 36 passes as he manfully dug in with the rest of the Leeds United players and fought the hard battles in the trenches.