If the renewed sense of optimism stirred by a new season was already thin on the ground at Elland Road, it may have just about vanished with this defeat.
An afternoon that began with a protest by a couple of hundred fans against the club's owner, Ken Bates, outside the West Stand ended with sporadic chants of "Bates out" insidethe ground after a 1-0 reverse in a contest that yielded three sendings-off – Leeds's Max Gradel and Jonny Howson, and Tony McMahon of Middlesbrough.
It was nine against 10 when Boro got the winning goal, the Dutchman Marvin Emnes maintaining his impressive start to the season by thumping in his fifth goal in three matches with 23 minutes left.
Leeds, missing three injured strikers, had no one to match the menace of the pacy Emnes, a player reborn under Tony Mowbray, and this defeat will add to the swell of anti-Bates feeling that has risen over a summer of sparse transfer spending. There was dissent in the away end during Leeds's 3-1 opening-day loss at Southampton, with supporters' unhappiness stemming from the contrast between the club's tiny transfer budget and Bates's esti-mated £7 million investment innew corporate facilities in theEast Stand.
Bates defended himself in his programme notes, stressing that "the two costs are separate", that borrowing for a development that will increase income is a different matter to acquiring loans for transfers when there is no guarantee of a payback. Although Leeds have rejected bids for two of Grayson's best players, wingers Gradel and Robert Snodgrass, Leeds have so far signed four players and lost five, paying only nominal fees for the goalkeeper Andy Lonergan and the Manchester City midfielder Adam Clayton, both of whom performed well here.
On this evidence Grayson, who must operate in the loan market, desperately needs a new striker given Davide Somma's long-term absence with a cruciate ligament tear and Luciano Becchio's hamstring problem. The only positive for the watching Bates was that by the end the home crowd had an additional target for their ire in referee Anthony Taylor. After a bright Leeds start had yielded only two routine saves by Carl Ikeme – stopping a Tom Lees header and a Gradel drive – the Manchester official showed the first of three red cards to Gradel after 26 minutes.
Given the Ivorian winger was already on a yellow, his rash tackle on Tony McMahon made the red card a formality; however, Grayson argued the referee had "made a rod for his back" by booking both players in an earlier incident after seven minutes. "How he can book two players going for a 50-50 challenge I don't know."
Middlesbrough almost capitalised on Gradel's dismissal as Emnes drew a flying save from Lonergan with a diving header. Although the busy Clayton nearly caught Ikeme out with a chip, the visitors went close again when Justin Hoyte drilled in a shot that Lonergan tipped on to the crossbar.
Yet Leeds seemed to have been reprieved when, in the third minute of stoppage time, Taylor evened up the numbers. McMahon, already booked for his angry response to Gradel's early late foul, barged Howson, but a second yellow seemed a harsh punishment.
As it was, Boro regained the numerical advantage on the hour, with Howson earning a second yellow for a trip on Emnes as he threatened to sprint clear on the halfway line. Although Lees had a header cleared off the line early in the second half, Boro, with their neat passing, took control against the nine men, inflicting Leeds' first home League defeat since last October. Cutting into the box, Emnes stepped inside Lees and lashed a shot high past Lonergan.
Leeds Utd (4-2-3-1): Lonergan; Lees, Bromby, Kisnorbo, O'Dea; Clayton, Brown (Nunez, 56); Snodgrass (Thompson, 65), Howson, Gradel; McCormack (Sam, 75).
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Ikeme; McMahon, Bates, McManus, Bennett; Hoyte (Arca, 64), Bailey, Williams (Hines, 90), Robson(Martin, 64); McDonald, Emnes.
Referee Anthony Taylor.
Man of the match Marvin Emnes
Match rating 6/10Reuse content