First-half goals secure 3-1 win over the Seasiders at Elland Road...
UNITED 3 (Cooper 9, Doukara 31, Antenucci 42), BLACKPOOL 1 (Ranger 75).
United: Silvestri, Byram, Cooper, Pearce, Warnock, Cook, Mowatt, Bianchi (Tonge 70), Adryan (Austin 64), Doukara, Antenucci (Sharp 89). Subs. S Taylor, Berardi, Del Fabro, Dawson.
Blackpool: Lewis, Lenihan, Daniels, Clarke, Dunne, Blackman (O'Hara 17), Perkins, Lundstram (Mellis 69), Orlandi (Ranger 45), Murphy, Miller. Subs. Parish, Cywka, Zoko, Delfouneso.
Referee: S Atwell
Booked: Cook (United)
The visit of Blackpool saw United head coach Neil Redfearn make one change from the midweek draw with Charlton as Jason Pearce returned from suspension to replace Giuseppe Bellusci, who served a one-match ban after picking up his fifth booking of the season.
Elland Road observed a minute’s silence ahead of kick-off as a mark of respect for Remembrance Weekend, while the players wore commemorative Poppy-emblazoned match shirts as football remembered the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak.
From the opening whistle, United started on the front foot and Blackpool goalkeeper Joe Lewis was called into action inside the first two minutes as Mirco Antenucci forced him into a smart low stop after being thread through by Souleymane Doukara.
Lewis then thwarted Stephen Warnock after a marauding run down the left and both Adryan and Antenucci looked for openings inside the area as Redfearn’s side totally dominated the early stages.
United were in control and deservedly took the lead after nine minutes thanks to Liam Cooper’s first goal since joining the club from Chesterfield over the summer.
Alex Mowatt’s cross deflected kindly into the defender’s path on the edge of the box and he made no mistake, lashing a ferocious half-volley into the bottom corner to leave Lewis rooted to the spot and bring Elland Road to its feet.
The East side of the ground thought Antenucci had doubled the lead just seven minutes later as he beat the offside trap to race through on goal, only to fire into the side-netting after some heavy pressure from the recovering Blackpool defence.
The United backline faced its first real test after 24 minutes as Blackpool broke down the right and Pearce needed to be alert to hack clear from inside the six-yard box in an otherwise routine opening half hour.
United were playing with an air of confidence and a real sense of urgency - evident as the advantage was doubled on 31 minutes following an incisive counter-attack.
Collecting the ball on the halfway line from a neat Antenucci flick, the lively Adryan drove forward and exploited a gap in the Blackpool defence to find Doukara waiting inside the area to guide his sixth goal of the season into the bottom corner with a precise finish.
With United showing no signs of easing off, a third goal seemed inevitable and it came three minutes before the break as Antenucci saw his volley from outside the area deflected beyond the helpless Lewis in a comprehensive first half.
Tommaso Bianchi saw his dangerous-looking cross palmed away by Lewis, while Blackpool substitute Nile Ranger headed a corner inches wide of Marco Silvestri’s far post in what was a much slower start to the second half.
David Perkins then fizzed a strike well wide from distance before Doukara dragged an effort into the arms of Lewis at the opposite end. Redfearn made his first change of the afternoon on 64 minutes, with Rodolph Austin returning from injury to replace Adryan. Bianchi then limped off as Michael Tonge was introduced with 20 minutes remaining.
There had been little in the way of goalmouth action after the restart but despite United’s patient probing to extend their lead even further, it was Blackpool who added the fourth goal of the afternoon as Ranger headed Jacob Murphy’s corner past Silvestri on 75 minutes.
The goal seemed to re-awake the hosts and Austin immediately drove United forward before picking out Antenucci, whose strike was blocked in front of goal before Blackpool managed to clear their lines from the subsequent scramble with Doukara lurking inside the six-yard box.
Ishmael Miller drove a strike wide from 20 yards out as Blackpool threatened to set up a nervy finale, while Austin almost danced his way inside the area to tee up Doukara before Antenucci curled over the bar as United looked to put the tie to bed.
Billy Sharp returned from his injury lay-off to replace Antenucci in attack as the game entered six minutes of stoppage time. The 3-1 scoreline remained intact, though, as United held off some late pressure to end a run of eight games without a win and usher in the international break in positive fashion.