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Woodgate hails Leeds as “best in the Championship”

Jonathan Woodgate has no doubts that Leeds are the best team in the Championship.

The former Leeds defender saw his Middlesbrough side outclassed by the Whites, who ran out 4-0 winners at Elland Road.

A brace from Mateusz Klich and goals from Patrick Bamford and Helder Costa sealed a fifth straight win for Leeds, who returned to the top of the league – albeit until West Brom visit Preston on Monday.

As for the struggling Teessiders, they remain just a point above the relegation places.

Despite admitting his side were hamstrung without a host of key players due to injury, Woodgate admits the better team ran out worthy winners.

He said: “Leeds are a really, really good team – the best in the Championship, without a doubt.

“But credit to my players. They kept going until the very end. The positives are that we had eight academy lads in the squad.

“Conceding so early was a killer for us and then their second was a turning point. But they gave me everything they had.

“We had players who are carrying injuries but they want to play and want to give everything. We’ve got to remain positive.

“I can’t knock their effort. We just came up against a top team.”

Leeds started at full pelt and Bamford, once of Boro, opened the scoring after just three minutes.

His initial header was kept out by Aynsley Pears but Bamford made no mistake with a second attempt.

Leeds dominated the rest of the half but had to wait until stoppage time for Klich to double their lead, the Pole’s effort taking a nick off a visiting defender before nestling into the net.

That crucial second gave the hosts breathing space and they came out in ruthless mode after the interval.

After some close chances, Costa made it 3-0 when he rifled home from the edge of the area in the 67th minute and Klich saved the best until last when he curled home a superb strike to add gloss on proceedings with 17 minutes left.

Despite the impressive offensive performance, Leeds chief Marcelo Bielsa chose to praise his team’s defensive prowess.

He said: “We defended very well.

“There was a moment in the middle of the first half when Middlesbrough created a lot of chances.

“We recovered the ball fast, but they had two good strikers and those two players didn’t have an impact on the match.

“Maybe it’s because we recovered the ball quickly and they didn’t have many balls. [Luke] Ayling, [Gaetano] Berardi and [Ben] White in our defence restricted their attackers.”

With Leeds sitting pretty at the top and on an eight-game unbeaten run, many have tipped the Whites to be a shoe-in for a long-awaited Premier League return.

But Bielsa remains coy on their chances at what is still an early juncture in the season.

He added: “It is important [to be top now] but there is a long way forward.

“Of course, we have to give some value to the current position because in a league like this, the future is built match by match.

“But the most important is the regularity in every match to make a difference.

“We cannot talk about regularity if we don’t let the league go more forward. You have to analyse how you win every match.”