A STUNNING strike from Michael Tonge earned Leeds United a point in a controversial Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday - but the game was overshadowed by the behaviour of a fan who ran onto the pitch and pushed Owls goalkeeper Chris Kirkland to the ground.
While Leeds players were celebrating the 77th minute equaliser that gave them a 1-1 draw the so-called supporter managed to get on the pitch and then confronted Kirkland before forcefully pushing him in the face.
The goalkeeper was able to carry on after treatment, but all the talk in the immediate aftermath was about the fan’s actions and not the football on the pitch and more controversy surrounding referee Eddie Ilderton and his assistants.
The officials failed to spot a blatant handball by Luciano Becchio that should have given the Owls a 23rd minute penalty and failed to see Miguel Llera’s push in the face on Michael Brown that should have resulted in a red card or the same defender’s forearm and follow-up on Becchio.
But in the game itself Wednesday should have been three up in the first half. Jay Bothroyd’s long range strike hit the crossbar after slipping through the hands of Paddy Kenny and the Owls’ best attacker, Michail Antonio, was guilty of a glaring miss when heading over after being left with a free header.
Leeds finally got a foothold in the game with Tonge sending notice of his shooting ability with a well struck free-kick that brought a save out of Kirkland and Becchio seeing a diving header blocked, but the hosts took a deserved lead in the 44th minute.
Wednesday looked dangerous all night from set pieces and made one count when Antonio’s long throw was headed home by Bothroyd, the ball going in past an offside home player who was either not spotted or deemed to be not interfering with play.
Leeds boss Neil Warnock admitted he was happy his side were only one down at the break, but his side improved in an even second half.
There were few clear chances, however, from either side as Tonge sent another free-kick just over, Bothroyd mishit a shot well wide and Owls defender Anthony Gardner saw a shot deflected wide.
United did see more of the ball and after good hold-up play by El Hadji Diouf and a pass by Aidan White they came up with a spectacular equaliser as Tonge sent a volley from outside the box flying past Kirkland into the net.
Amid an ugly atmosphere the game petered out despite five minutes of injury-time and Leeds escaped with a somewhat fortunate point.
They had worked hard throughout and showed again how hard they have become to beat, but produced little fluid football and were handicapped by playing a clearly tired Rodolph Austin following his long haul flight back from international duty with Jamaica. The midfielder was taken off at half-time while United also lost skipper Lee Peltier to injury in the second half.
Sheffield Wednesday 1
Leeds United 1
Friday, October 19, 2012
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland, Buxton, Gardner, Llera, Jones, Bothroyd, Semedo, Barkley, Corry (Mayor 83), Antonio, O’Grady (Madine 83).
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Pearce, Peltier (Varney 67), White, Austin (Norris 45), Brown, Tonge, Diouf, Becchio.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton.