United suffer 2-1 home defeat...
UNITED 1 (Phillips 17), CARDIFF 2 (Morrison 14, Gunnarsson 62).
United: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi (Doukara 86), Murphy, Phillips (Morison 64), Mowatt, C Taylor, Byram, Antenucci (Sharp 64). Subs. S Taylor, Cooper, Ngoyi, Montenegro.
Cardiff: Marshall, Peltier, Manga, Morrison, Malone, Ralls, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone (O'Keefe 78), McAleny (Doyle 33), Mason (Harris 70). Subs. Moore, Fabio, Adeyemi, Kennedy.
Referee: C Kavanagh
Booked: Bellusci, Mowatt (United), Peltier, Morrison, Gunnarsson, Harris (Cardiff)
The visit of Cardiff City saw United head coach Neil Redfearn make just one change from the Easter Monday defeat at Wolves as Giuseppe Bellusci returned from injury to replace Liam Cooper in defence. There was also an Elland Road debut for youngster Kalvin Phillips, who retained his place in midfield.
Cardiff made a lively start, with both Joe Mason and Craig Noone probing for early sights of goal. But United carved the game’s first opening after 10 minutes as Sam Byram sent Gaetano Berardi hurtling towards goal, only to be forced wide and crowded out by blue shirts.
Charlie Taylor then drilled a low effort wide from 25 yards, while Phillips stood firm at the opposite end to deny Conor McAleny’s strike from inside the area.
It had been an evenly-matched start to proceedings but Cardiff managed to open the scoring after just 14 minutes through Sean Morrison. Peter Whittingham’s whipped corner was flicked towards the back post by former United man Lee Peltier, and Morrison was able to force home.
But the visitors’ lead lasted just a matter of three minutes as United soon drew level. Taylor’s cross from the left wreaked havoc among the Cardiff defence, with goalkeeper David Marshall losing his footing, allowing home debutant Phillips to calmly tuck away his first senior goal for the club in an unforgettable moment for the 19-year-old.
The equaliser looked to have put United on the front foot and, just moments later, Bellusci glanced a header wide after rising to meet Luke Murphy’s free-kick inside the area. A flowing move down the left involving Taylor and Berardi then led to another opening as the latter found Byram arriving at the back post, but his low effort was blocked by the Bluebirds’ defence.
A brief spell of Cardiff pressure followed as Bellusci was forced into an excellent block to deny Mason and Marco Silvestri clutched the striker’s header on the rebound.
Russell Slade had been forced into an early change, with Eoin Doyle coming on for the injured McAleny, and the substitute striker had Cardiff’s best chance of the half within two minutes of stepping off the bench. A misplaced back-pass allowed Doyle to race free on goal, but Silvestri’s reflexes ensured the scorleline remained level.
The Cardiff defence withstood a number of balls into their box before coming inches away from re-taking the lead on the stroke of half-time. Mason worked his way into the area but could only drag wide of Silvestri’s far post.
Both teams re-emerged from the break unchanged and United began the second half brightly, with Byram forcing a block from a tight angle before Murphy sliced a half-volley into Marshall’s arms.
A somewhat subdued period followed before Scott Wootton needed to be on hand to divert a dangerous-looking cross behind. Silvestri was then alert to deny Mason with his feet at the near post as Cardiff started to assert some pressure.
And the visitors re-took the lead in a similar fashion to their first goal. Silvestri pushed away Whittingham’s effort following a Cardiff corner and Aron Gunnarsson was first to react, stabbing the ball home from close-range after 62 minutes.
Redfearn responded with a double substitution, bringing on Billy Sharp and Steve Morison for Antenucci and Phillips, as United looked to get back to grips with the tie.
Sharp was involved almost immediately and came agonisingly close to pulling United level for the second time of the afternoon, heading Taylor’s left-wing cross onto the bar with Marshall well-beaten in front of the Kop. Morison then nodded over Wootton’s cross at the back-post in a better spell for Redfearn’s men.
Berardi stung the palms of Marshall with a wicked, dipping effort from range, and Cardiff somehow managed to scramble clear the resulting corner as the game entered the final 10 minutes with the Elland Road crowd urging United forward.
But, despite five minutes of stoppage time, there proved to be no way through as Cardiff left West Yorkshire with all three points.