Goalscorers: Paul Wilkinson 7, 8, Tommy Wright 47, John Hendrie 59, Eric Cantona 68
Middlesbrough: Ian Ironside, Chris Morris, Alan Kernaghan, Jimmy Phillips, Derek Whyte, Tommy Wright, Andy Peake, John Hendrie, Paul Wilkinson (Robbie Mustoe (45), Willie Falconer, Bernie Slaven (Jamie Pollock 77)
Leeds United: John Lukic, Jon Newsome (Gordon Strachan 45), Chris Fairclough, Tony Dorigo, Chris Whyte, David Batty (Steve Hodge) 76, Gary Speed, Gary McAllister, Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona, Rod Wallace
Referee: David Allison, Attendance: 18,649
Leeds United were the defending English top-flight champions and they were expected to turn up and produce another skilful and effective display against a newly-promoted team in Middlesbrough. Boro had finished runners-up to Ipswich Town in Division Two the previous term and were expected to struggle. However, they were coming off the back of a Bernie Slaven double that had beaten Manchester City in the midweek round of fixtures.
Leeds had a physical side not afraid of a battle but with the guile of Gary McAllister, finishing qualities of Lee Chapman and French flair in Eric Cantona, they also had the skill to unlock opposition defences. Instead, it was their backline that was made to look very ordinary, especially in the first 10 minutes.
New Middlesbrough signing Tommy Wright found some space out wide in the seventh minute. He delivered an inch-perfect cross and Paul Wilkinson slotted home from six-yards out, neatly getting ahead of his marker Chris Fairclough to open the scoring. That was his second of the season and his third would arrive just 60 seconds later.
Wright again was given bundles of space on the left-wing. Again, his cross was a dream and Wilkinson was once again on the end of it to produce a diving header that left John Lukic helpless. Lennie Lawrence’s side now had a two-goal lead to defend.
Leeds did create chances with Cantona giving the Boro defenders some headaches but even his shooting boots seemed to have been misplaced. Despite losing two-goal hero Wilkinson to an ankle ligament injury before half-time, confidence was at an all-time high within the Middlesbrough dressing room and they increased their lead just moments into the second half.
Jimmy Phillips’ corner was met by the impressive Wright, who deserved a goal for his huge contribution throughout. Lukic left completely flummoxed by the scoreline and the defensive display he was witnessing right infront of him. Was this just a very bad day for the reigning champions?
It got worse. John Hendrie made it 4-0 in the 59th minute. He went on a dribble and as the defenders backed off, encouraging him to shoot, that’s exactly what he did. Again, the finish was clinical and decisive. Cantona did pull a goal back with just over 20 minutes remaining but this was a reality check for Leeds and their manager, Howard Wilkinson. They would go through the entire season without winning a game away from Elland Road.
Afterwards, Lawrence admitted: “That was the most professional performance; I have ever been associated with.”
Relegation did follow at the end of the season but this still remains one of Middlesbrough’s finest 90 minutes in their Premier League life.