Late goal denies Millers...
A LATE goal from Mateusz Klich denied Rotherham United any reward for a fine performance against table-topping Leeds United after Marcelo Bielsa’s team earned a narrow victory at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Paul Warne’s side deservedly led at the interval thanks to Semi Ajayi’s thunderbolt but Klich turned the game on its head, with a double strike, in the second-half – with the winner coming with just five minutes to go.
Following their home defeat at the hands of Brentford last time out, Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the table-toppers.
Experienced defender Billy Jones was recalled to the right back slot while Sean Raggett was asked to partner Clark Robertson, at the heart of the Rotherham defence – with Ajayi moved into a holding midfield role.
In the early seconds, Rotherham countered with purpose and following great tenacity from Michael Smith, Anthony Forde showed good anticipation to get the ball under his spell before trying his luck from distance but he dragged his low effort harmlessly wide of the target.
In Leeds’ first foray of note, Jack Harrison got behind Jones to clip a cross which was flicked on by Kemar Roofe but the Millers managed to scramble the ball clear at the far post before new Leeds ‘keeper Kiko Casilla was forced to punch clear Forde’s whipped kick, at the other end.
Minutes later, Joe Mattock set off on a marauding run from the back before Smith and Vaulks combined smartly to present Jon Taylor with the chance to swing a tantalising centre which was aimed at Smith in the box, but the Millers frontman was penalised for climbing over his marker, and the pressure was released on the visitors.
Just before the half-hour mark, Rotherham took the lead in spectacular fashion thanks to defender-cum-midfielder Ajayi.
There looked little danger for Leeds when Ajayi switched the play to the left flank but quick one touch passing involving Mattock, Forde and Towell presented the Nigerian international with the chance to stride from the heart of midfield before striking a rasping right-footed effort from distance which flew into the top corner of the Leeds goal, leaving Casilla grasping at thin air.
Minutes later, the Millers were indebted to Jones, for a brave header, at the far post, after Luke Ayling’s superb cross looked inch-perfect for Jack Clarke to head home, before the ex-Sunderland full-back’s timely intervention.
With half-time approaching, Ezgjan Alioski fired a wild shot which failed to trouble Marek Rodak in the home goal before the Slovakian stopper was finally called into action with a smothered save from Jack Harrison’s low, left-footed effort.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Vaulks’ strike was bravely blocked by Klich before Mattock’s cross caused havoc in the Leeds box and a retreating defender, in attempting to clear, headed narrowly over his own crossbar.
Moments later, Adam Forshaw clipped the heels of Vaulks and Forde fired the resultant free-kick into the box but Raggett failed to divert his header goalwards and Casilla picked up the pieces before Leeds equalised, six minutes into the half, arguably, against the run of play.
The ball was switched to the left flank and Hernandez cut inside to deliver a cross into the box and Robertson and Klich tangled in the six-yard box and with the Scottish defender unable to clear the danger, the Polish forward stuck out a timely leg to bundle the ball past the attentions of Rodak, as the ball dribbled into the heart of the Rotherham net.
The visitors’ were lifted by the equaliser and Kalvin Phillips looped a header into the grateful hands of Rodak before Klich fired into the visiting hordes behind the goal with a snap effort from the edge of the box.
The Millers gradually cleared their heads and they came close to regaining their lead when Leeds failed to clear their lines under pressure from Smith and Vaulks latched onto the loose ball before unleashing a fierce effort from long range which was arrowing into the bottom corner of the visitors goal until Casilla, showed fleet of foot and great agility, to tip the ball around the post.
Minutes later, Robertson rose highest from Forde’s corner but his header lacked power as Casilla snuffed out the danger before Rodak was forced to parry Hernandez’s cross-cum-shot to safety, at the other end.
With the game in the balance, Leeds missed a couple of gilt-edged chances when firstly Hernandez clipped a lovely ball over the top which deceived Raggett but Kemar Roofe fluffed his lines with a wayward header before Harrison’s perfectly-weighted pass gave Alioski, an opportunity to strike, from an inviting position on the edge of the box, but he screwed his shot wide when he really should have better.
Moments later, Robertson saw yellow for a clip on Roofe before Raggett was on the cover to deny the Leeds striker, who looked to race through on goal.
With the game on a knife edge, Leeds broke Millers hearts with the decisive winner when Harrison injected pace into a visiting move before sliding a pass into the path of Klich, who got the ball out of his feet, before striking a left-footed effort which beat the outstretched hand of Rodak, to find the far corner of the net.
The Millers threw the kitchen sink near the end and after Casilla was booked for blatant timewasting, the former Real Madrid flapped at Vaulks’ cross but luckily for the visitors, the ball bounced to safety.
In the last action of the game, Phillips hauled over sub Kyle Vassell and with Rodak upfield, Leeds scrambled the resultant free-kick clear, despite the efforts of a number of Rotherham attackers to divert the ball goalwards – before the referee brought the game to an end.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Leeds United 2
Rotherham United 1
Leeds United 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde, Taylor (Yates 75), Towell (Crooks 85), Robertson, Smith (Vassell 82), Raggett, Jones. Unused- Price, Vyner, Wood, Palmer.
Leeds- Casilla, Ayling, Forshaw, Cooper, Roofe, Alioski, Hernandez (Davis 90), Harrison (Shackleton 87), Phillips, Klich, Clarke (Roberts 46). Unused- Peacock-Farrell, Pearce, Stevens, Halme.
Referee- T Robinson
Attendance- 11259 (2317)