Leeds claim derby honours thanks to second-half goals.
TWO second half-goals helped high-flying Leeds United see off the brave challenge of Rotherham United to maintain their 100 percent league record.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side claimed the White Rose bragging rights thanks to Luke Ayling’s header and Kemar Roofe’s well-taken finish – but the Millers were unfortunate not to be leading at the interval as Ryan Williams was denied by Bailey Peacock-Farrell before Jon Taylor’s fierce effort smacked against the upright.
Following their last-gasp victory over Ipswich Town in their last league outing, the Millers made the short hop to West Yorkshire.
Millers chief Paul Warne reverted to a 4-5-1 formation at Elland Road with Sean Raggett making his first league start at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard alongside skipper Richard Wood. Semi Ajayi was asked to play a midfield holding role, in front of Will Vaulks and Matt Palmer in the Millers engine room.
Williams and Taylor were expected to provide the ammunition from the flanks with last week’s goalscorer Michael Smith plying a lone furrow upfront.
New signing Ryan Manning was named on the bench following his midweek signing on a season-long loan from QPR
In front of a vociferous home crowd, Raggett had to be on his toes to prevent Ezgian Alioski from darting into the box before the Macedonian got on the end of Barry Douglas’ slide-rule pass to fire a centre which was smartly smothered by Marek Rodak, in the visitors’ goal.
Minutes later, Kalvin Phillips tried his luck from distance but his effort flew into the home faithful behind the goal before Wood showed great anticipation to prevent Roofe breaking clear with a timely tackle.
In Rotherham’s first foray of note, Vaulks launched an exocet throw into the box which was aimed at Ajayi and Bailey Peacock was forced to scurry from his own line to clear the danger before Zak Vyner failed to deal with Pablo Hernandez’s ball into the box and Roofe latched onto the loose ball to work a shooting position and the ex-Oxford United player curled an effort, from the edge of the box, which had Rodak nervously flying across goal, as it shaved the Millers upright.
Minutes later, Samuel Saiz got the better of Wood on the edge of the box before firing a low, left-footed effort which brought a smothered save from Rodak became Taylor became the first to see yellow for simulation, after he looked to skip past the attentions of Douglas.
In Rotherham’s first shot in anger, Vaulks fired a drilled effort from long range but home skipper Liam Cooper blocked it en-route to goal before Cooper almost turned villain with a suicidal backpass which was not anticipated by Peacock Farrell and Williams looked a certain scorer from close range but Peacock-Farrell bailed out his skipper with a point-blank save at the feet of the Australian.
Moments later, Ayling screwed a shot narrowly wide of the target before the home side had another let-off when Taylor pounced on a loose ball before taking aim from distance and his fierce right-footed effort smashed against the foot of the post before rolling to safety.
The home goal was living a charmed life and after Taylor’s clipped cross found the head of Williams, whose downward header brought a smart save from Peacock-Farrell, the ex-Barnsley midfielder bamboozled the home side with superb skill near the touchline and Smith was able to present Palmer with the opportunity to strike and the visiting midfielder struck a fierce effort, from just outside the box, which whistled narrowly over the home bar.
The home side gradually regained their composure and Mateusz Klich made something out of nothing to fire a dipping effort which had Rodak nervously looking over his shoulder, as it narrowly cleared the angle of the Millers goal before Roofe’s cross-cum-shot caused Millers hearts to flutter, in the home side’s next attack, as it fizzed across the goalmouth.
Minutes later, Palmer and Smith combined to pave the way for Taylor to get the ball from under his feet to drag an effort which failed to trouble the home goal before Cooper put his body on the line to block Vaulks’ effort from the edge of the box.
Just prior to the break, Leeds had faint appeals for a spot kick when Hernandez’s shot appeared to strike the arm of Wood in the box but the referee waved away home protests before Gaetano Berardi tried his luck with an opportunistic effort which swerved in the air forcing Rodak, into a smart parry over his own crossbar.
Half-time:- Leeds United 0 Rotherham United 0
The home side were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Alioski exchanged passes with Klich to burst into the box but his cross fizzed across the face of goal.
However, Leeds broke the deadlock from resultant corner when Cooper rose highest to plant a header which was parried by Rodak into the path of Roofe, who looked to tap the ball home but bizarrely, he could scoop the ball back into the six-yard box and Ayling headed goalwards and despite the efforts of a Millers defender on the line to keep the ball out, the referee gave the goal with technology apparently confirming that the ball had crossed the line.
Just past the hour mark, Rotherham failed to deal decisively with a cross into the box and Wood’s headed clearance fell kindly for Roofe, who drilled a low effort, from the edge of the box, which was arrowing into the bottom corner of the goal, but it struck a grounded Saiz and the chance was lost.
Minutes later, a superb Leeds move involving several one-touch passes split open the Rotherham defence and Saiz looked a certain scorer, but despite the Spaniard keeping his nerve to clip the ball towards goal, Wood showed great awareness to head clear from his own goalline – with Rodak beaten.
However, the home side took a firm grip on the game by doubling their lead with 19 minutes remaining when Kelvin Phillips’ clever ball over the top saw Roofe win a footrace with Raggett, by getting on the wrong side of the Norwich loanee to bear down on the Millers goal and despite facing Rodak from an acute angle, Roofe gave the visiting ‘keeper the eyes to calmly stroke the ball into the far corner of the goal.
The Millers refused to throw in the towel and sub Manning almost made an immediate impression from the bench with a clever turn and shot which forced Peacock-Farrell into an acrobatic save before Mattock headed goalwards following the breakdown of a Manning free-kick but Peacock-Farrell plucked the ball out of the sky.
Full-time:- Leeds United 2 Rotherham United 0
Leeds United 2
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Leeds- Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Douglas, Cooper, Roofe (Bamford 87), Alioski, Saiz (Baker 80), Hernandez, Phillips, Berardi, Klich (Jansson 90). Unused- Blackman, Bamford, Pearce, Harrison, Shackleton.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Vassell 76), Palmer (Manning 66), Taylor, Williams, Smith (Proctor 78), Raggett. Unused- Bilboe, Ball, Robertson, Newell.
Referee:- R Jones