Marcelo Bielsa says Leeds deserve credit for seeing the game out at Middlesbrough to take another step towards the Premier League.
The Leeds boss was heartened by the way his promotion chasers went ahead through Mateusz Klich’s opener in first half stoppage-time and then held on to their 1-0 lead at the Riverside Stadium.
Middlesbrough, deep in relegation trouble after failing to win any of their last nine league games, created a few half-chances from distance and the boos rang around the home fans at the end.
Leeds forced Boro goalkeeper Aynsley Pears into numerous good stops as he prevented the hosts’ goal difference – which is all that is keeping them out of the bottom three – from taking a hit.
The visitors are five points clear of third-placed Fulham and four shy of leaders West Brom.
Bielsa said: “The team fought a lot and were very aggressive. We attacked better in the first than second half.
“Today the team protected the result. We played well in different moments of the match. The team didn’t lose their calm and fought. In general we managed the situations well.
“Maybe in some moments in the second half Middlesbrough created some problems but in general we had three more chances than them. There was a lot of fight in the match.
“We resolved well the absence of Kalvin Phillips. We were compact and tough to play.
“Scoring is the most difficult thing in football and more efficient teams do better.”
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate was less satisfied with the outcome, even though his side turned in an improved showing from their last three games.
Woodgate’s team are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference after Wigan won at Reading, while Barnsley and Luton – also below the Teessiders – also reduced the gap with wins over the last 24 hours.
Marcus Tavernier hit the crossbar in the second half as Middlesbrough went in search of an equaliser, while George Saville forced goalkeeper Kiko Casilla into a tremendous stop from distance.
Woodgate also felt that Middlesbrough could have had a spot-kick when Lewis Wing’s free-kick appeared to strike the arm of Stuart Dallas in the area.
He said: “Miles better than the last two games, light and day between the performances. If we play like that we will be fine because everything was there – work ethic, determination.
“We were OK, at times on the ball we were poor but I thought we matched them really well.
“It’s the same as when we went to Leeds, it’s the last 20 seconds of the half. All you’ve got to do is turn and put it in the corner and he’s ’s played a square pass.
“The save gets blocked, they go down the other end and they score. That’s the frustrating thing. By the way I thought we should have had a penalty from Lewis Wing’s free-kick, I thought it was a clear handball, it didn’t get given so you move on.
“They are going to be disappointed in there; I expect them to be disappointed no matter what if you lose games, but they are still there and they are still fighting and they’ll keep on fighting.
“It’s tight, it’s even tighter now isn’t it but I concentrate on our team, that’s the best thing to do.”