Goals from Doukara and Antenucci seal three points in South Wales...
CARDIFF 0, UNITED 2 (Doukara 37, Antenucci 90+4)
Cardiff team: Marshall, Fabio, Manga, Connolly, Malone, Ralls, O’Keefe (Zohore 82), Whittingham (Noone 63), Lawrence (Ameobi 76), Immers, Pilkington. Subs: Moore, Morrison, Dikgacoi, Saadi.
United team: Silvestri, Berardi, Bamba, Bellusci, Taylor, Bridcutt (Diagouraga 71), Murphy, Mowatt (Dallas 76), Cook, Doukara (Erwin 86), Antenucci. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Wootton, Carayol, Botaka.
Referee: Darren Deadman
Booked: Connolly, Fabio (Cardiff), Murphy, Bridcutt, Berardi (United)
Sent off: Fabio (Cardiff)
The midweek trip to Cardiff City saw United head coach Steve Evans make four changes from the weekend’s victory over Bolton Wanderers, with Gaetano Berardi, Sol Bamba, Luke Murphy and Alex Mowatt all returning to the starting line-up in South Wales. Defensive duo Lewie Coyle and Liam Cooper missed out completely through injury, while Toumani Diagouraga and Mustapha Carayol dropped to the substitutes bench.
The hosts, who entered the game unbeaten on home soil since September, looked to start the evening’s encounter on the front foot, with Anthony Pilkington blasting over from 25 yards out after seizing upon a loose ball within just three minutes of the opening whistle, before the former Norwich City man headed a left-wing cross into the arms of Marco Silvestri.
United soon started to make their presence known, though, as Saturday’s match-winner Mirco Antenucci curled an audacious attempt well over David Marshall’s crossbar after cushioning the ball on his chest and cutting away from his marker.
Bamba, the Leeds captain, then had the best chance of the early exchanges, scooping the ball over the bar from six yards out after Giuseppe Bellusci had guided Mowatt’s wicked free-kick into his path.
Having survived those two United threats, Cardiff set about asserting some authority on the game and began to enjoy a good spell of possession inside the visitors’ half as they probed for a way through.
Stuart O’Keefe saw his dipping half-volley bounce wide of the near post from 20 yards out, before Silvestri was called into the save of the night to superbly palm away Peter Whittingham’s goal-bound free-kick shortly before the half-hour mark.
The United goalkeeper’s reflexes were soon tested again, Tom Lawrence seeing his low strike palmed away at full-stretch, before Evans’ side broke from the resulting corner and managed to open the scoring against the run of play.
Antenucci collected the ball just over halfway and proceeded to run head on at the Cardiff defence before threading strike partner Souleymane Doukara into the area to beat Marshall with a low finish which took a slight deflection on its way in.
The hosts went in search of a quick-fire equaliser at the opposite end as Lex Immers hooked a cross inches wide of the far post and Pilkington was again denied by Silvestri as United took the lead into the interval.
Both sides re-emerged unchanged and United were left wondering how their advantage had not been doubled during the early stages of the second half, with Antenucci seeing his effort cleared off the line by Bruno Ecuele Manga following a mix-up at the back, before Marshall pushed away a Liam Bridcutt strike and smothered Antenucci on the rebound.
It was a lively start to the second period, with Silvestri needing to be alert to deny another strike from Immers, before tensions started to boil over with a series of robust challenges resulting in yellow cards for players on either side.
Among the players to go into the book was Cardiff full-back Fabio Da Silva- and the former Manchester United defenders was soon given his marching orders after being shown a second yellow for a cynical foul on Charlie Taylor just minutes after his first.
Pilkington, substitute Craig Noone and Joe Ralls all found Silvestri standing in their way as the hosts were urged forward in search of an equaliser, while United introduced fresh legs in the shape of Toumani Diagouraga and Stuart Dallas in a bid to make their numerical advantage count.
A nervy finale ensued, though, and Silvestri was in inspired form to keep out Noone’s curling free-kick before substitute Kenneth Zohore somehow clipped the crossbar after connecting with a low cross into the United area.
But as Cardiff threw men forward during six minutes of stoppage time, Leeds were able to wrap up the points thanks to Antenucci’s third goal from his last two matches – a cool finish from inside the area after racing free of the last Bluebirds defender.