Becchio deepens gloom for troubled Strachan

Middlesbrough 1 Leeds United 2
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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan is too long in the tooth to expect favours from a former club when he most needs one, and his world-weary view was justified as, in footballing terms, Leeds United kicked the beleaguered Middlesbrough manager while hewas down.

Six years' service at Elland Road, where the taciturn Scot was pivotal in helping Leeds to a First Division title in 1992, clearly carried no sentimentality for the visitors, who added to Strachan's problems by securing a deserved victory thanks to a stunning 12-yard volley from Luciano Becchio shortly after the hour, which went in off a post from Bradley Johnson's cross.

Simon Grayson was a young player starting out during Strachan's time with the Yorkshire club, and readily admits the 53-year-old had a major influence on his subsequent career. With this victoryin his 100th game in charge, the Leeds manager may have been similarly influential – but less favourably – on the future for Strachan, whose 12-month tenure at Middlesbrough islooking increasingly unstable.

In front of Middlesbrough's highest home crowd of the season of more than 23,500, Kris Boyd deservedly dragged the hosts level eight minutes after the break to cancel out Davide Somma's well-taken effort in a first half shaded by the visitors. The Scot, who had been unfortunate not to score on at least two previous occasions, nipped in ahead of Richard Naylor to level with a deft six-yard finish past Jason Brown on the keeper'sfull debut.

But the openings soon dried up for the hosts, and Becchio's sumptuous fifth goal of the season deserved to decide any contest. Indeed, the South American could have further embellished the margin of victory, only for his late 20-yard effort to hit the angle of crossbar and post.

The hosts had dropped to within two points of the relegation zone by kick-off, which followed a minute's applause for Malcolm Allison, the former Middlesbroughmanager who had died on Friday, aged 83.

In a cagey opening, it was the visitors who struck the early blow, taking a 12th-minute lead their territorial advantage just about merited. Robert Snodgrass undertook the spadework, with a purposeful run from midfield to feed Sanchez Watt down theleft flank.

The midfielder's cross found its way past four defenders to Somma at the far post, wherehe scored with a left-footed angled drive.

Middlesbrough created only half-openings in their attempts to redress the balance beforethe break.

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