Leeds eased past Millwall 3-0 thanks to Joel Piroe’s double and a well-taken goal from Georginio Rutter as Daniel Farke’s side earned their second win of the Championship season.
The 15th-minute opener was shrouded in controversy, with the hosts aggrieved a foul was not given on Kevin Nisbet in the build-up, before Piroe raced downfield, linking superbly with Wilfried Gnonto and Rutter, and dispatching a cool finish.
Scorer Piroe was actually the one to collide with Nisbet, which referee Chris Kavanagh deemed to be merely a coming together – an incident Millwall failed to recover from, prompting somewhat of a second-half collapse.
Gary Rowett, visibly perturbed on the sidelines at the perceived injustice, attempted to rally his side, and they emerged from half-time in better spirits, but failed to truly test a less-than-comfortable Illan Meslier, other than a tame Tom Bradshaw strike.
The Leeds goalkeeper had flapped at a few set-pieces, but Millwall failed to capitalise. “The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story,” Rowett reflected post-match.
Two quick-fire goals in the space of four second-half minutes then sealed the Londoners’ fate, scored by Piroe (77) and Rutter (81), to give Leeds their first win at Millwall in over 11 years, and ensure they stay within touching distance of the division’s genuine promotion chasers.
They rise to tenth, while Millwall slip to a disappointing 18th.
How Leeds did a number on Millwall
This was billed as a feisty encounter between two teams with a shared desire for this season’s promotion race. The history of the fixture made for hostilities pre-match, but the actual football was far more routine.
Millwall took the game to Leeds in the opening exchanges and Bradshaw and Nisbet both had shots blocked from close range within the first five minutes.
Leeds held firm, though, tentatively edging theirselves into the game before seizing momentum with a devastating counter-attack involving Piroe, Gnonto and Rutter.
Gnonto’s pass, dummied by Piroe, found Rutter lurking menacingly on the edge of the area, before the Frenchman played a deft through ball into the path of Piroe, who had continued his run, and he swept into the far corner.
The Lions improved, albeit briefly, after the break as Casper De Norre’s through ball released Bradshaw to strike at Meslier from six yards, but the shot asked very little of the Leeds ‘keeper, and turned out to be Millwall’s best entry of a lacklustre afternoon.
The hosts grew tired, while Leeds continued to sniff out opportunities and struck two late goals to seal the deal.
Substitute Dan James will lay claim to the assist for Piroe’s second, but in truth, it was the product of an awkward and clumsy fall, which fortuitously directed the ball to Piroe at the back post for an easy tap in.
The visitors then made sure of all three points four minutes later when James crossed for Rutter – intentionally this time – and he took full advantage of Jake Cooper’s misjudged clearance to fire high into the net.
Ampadu: Millwall tried to provoke us – we stayed calm
Leeds midfielder Ethan Ampadu speaking to Sky Sports:
“We knew how hard it was going to be coming here. There’s a lot to be said for the crowd. But we knew if we stuck to our jobs – the lads up top showed their quality, and that makes our job easy.
“They try and provoke you. They want you to get yellows, they want you to get reds. Credit to us, everyone kept a calm head and the results shows.
“We wanted to respond after the international break. We performed well before it, but we need to get results now. Hopefully this kick-starts us.”
Rowett: Scoreline doesn’t tell whole story
Millwall manager Gary Rowett speaking to Sky Sports:
“You lose 3-0 at home and it never feels good, it never looks good. But I don’t think it tells the whole picture of the game.
“Today I thought we started well, we were aggressive and moved the ball well. First half, you could argue we were probably the more dominant team in certain areas.
“We got some good moments, and lots of set-pieces, but we need to make more of those moments. Then we get done by one moment – the referee has a decision to make, and I’m not blaming him for it.
“All I said at the time was ‘you have to be right’. There were a lot of players going down easy, and I understand that’s a difficult thing to gauge, but they then counter-attack and score. It’s a difficult goal for us to concede.”
Farke: Priceless three points
Leed manager Daniel Farke speaking to Sky Sports:
“The Den is a tough place to go and I’m pretty proud today because we looked rock solid defensively. We scored fantastic goals.
“There were periods where you suffer but you have to be ready to take on the battle and that’s what we did. We scored amazing team goals and it’s a priceless three points.”
There is a swift turnaround for both sides, as Leeds travel to Hull City in three days’ time, while Millwall play host to Rotherham on the same evening. Both kick-off at 7.45pm.