Report: Albion 2 Leeds United 2Craig Mackail-Smith twice handed Albion the lead and also missed a penalty as a dramatic night at the Amex ultimately ended in frustration.
Thrills, spills and a controversial penalty decision certainly provided the watching crowd of 26,402 with value for money but as the dust settles, Albion will see this as two points dropped as their winless run is extended to seven games, despite a dominant 45 minutes.
Albion, keen to impress in front of the watching millions, did just that in a half which was rich in chances and controversy.
Referee Lee Mason, fresh from awarding three spot kicks in the Capital One Cup game between Chelsea and Manchester United, was soon at the forefront, booking Will Buckley for catching the heels of Michael Brown.
It did little to dampen the winger’s spirits, who skipped past three United players down the right flank only to see his deft ball into the box evade the Albion front line.
The effort set the trend for a rampant half by the Albion, with the lively Buckley sending another ball into the box. This time it found Ashley Barnes, but the striker pulled his effort across goal.
Seconds later a surging run and cross on the opposite flank by Wayne Bridge again fell to Barnes, whose left-foot snap-shot flashed agonisingly wide.
Andrea Orlandi was cynically scythed down by Brown as he surged forward into the box, but his resulting free-kick deflected wide for corner.
Incredibly, just ten minutes had passed on the clock.
The pressure finally paid six minutes later when Orlandi’s clever ball into the box was met by Buckley. Whites defender Lee Peltier stuck out a despairing leg and Mason had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Mackail-Smith who rifled the spot-kick straight down the middle to pick up his seventh goal in 11 games.
Albion then had two further chances in quick succession to extend their lead.
First, Mackail-Smith tried a toe-poke from 18 yards which cannoned off Paddy Kenny’s left-hand upright to safety.
But the Seagulls should have extended their lead on 25 minutes when Buckley fed Bruno in acres of space down the right. The Spaniard’s deep ball was met by unmarked compatriot Orlandi at the far post but he side-footed his volley into the ground and over the bar.
Leeds had barely had a sniff at the Albion goal all night but got back in the game in controversial circumstances on 37 minutes when Luke Varney collapsed dramatically as Bruno pushed away from the striker to close down a loose ball.
Incredibly, Mason pointed to the spot and El-Hadji Diouf drilled home despite Tomasz Kuszczak getting a hand to the ball.
There was still time for Mackail-Smith to again go close, firing wide from a Barnes knockdown, but the half-time whistle was greeted with a chorus of boos as Mason left the field.
Yet Albion were all smiles just three minutes after the re-start when a delightful reverse pass by Orlandi fed Buckley inside the box. The winger’s low by-line cross was met first-time by Mackail-Smith whose effort deflected off Jason Pearce and past Kenny from 12 yards out.
There was a superb interchange of passes between Buckley and Mackail-Smith and the latter fired the ball at Kenny on 62 minutes and Leeds’ first effort of the half came seconds later – Aidan White letting fly with a dipping 20-yard effort.
Again, United equalised against the run of play on 66 minutes when White teed up Brown on the edge of the box, and his effort took a deflection off sub Luciano Becchio and into the net.
Becchio then went close with a header that went inches wide of Kuszczak’s post but Albion had another chance to take the lead on 73 minutes when Mason awarded another penalty – this time Sam Byram running into Mackail-Smith as Bruno sent a ball into the box.
Up stepped the striker, but this time Kenny was equal to the spot kick.
Sub Stephen Dobbie let fly with a superb 25-yard effort that narrowly sailed over the bar and with just a minute of injury time remaining sub Andrew Crofts saw his close-range effort beaten away by Kenny.