Early goals see United suffer a 2-0 defeat at Elland Road...
UNITED 0, BLACKBURN 2 (Conway 1, Rhodes 6)
United team: Silvestri, Byram, Cooper, Bamba, Berardi, Dallas, Adeyemi (Botaka 51), Murphy, Cook (Mowatt 85), Antenucci, Wood (Doukara 69). Subs: Horton, Bellusci, Wootton, Buckley.
Blackburn team: Steele, Marshall, Duffy, Hanley (Kilgallon 75), Olsson, Taylor (O'Sullivan 89), Evans, Akpan, Conway, Lawrence (Delfouneso 84), Rhodes. Subs: Raya, Henley, Spurr, Williamson.
Referee: Tim Robinson
Booked: Bamba (United), Evans, Conway (Blackburn)
Att: 19,666 (520 Blackburn)
Steve Evans’ first game in the home dugout at Elland Road came in the shape of a televised clash with Blackburn Rovers, and the new United head coach named an unchanged team for the third consecutive game.
But proceedings couldn’t have got off to much worse of a start for Evans, with his side falling behind inside the opening 20 seconds as Craig Conway was found unmarked inside the area to hammer into the bottom corner from the first attack of the game.
And the stunned silence around Elland Road turned to disbelief just five minutes later when the visitors doubled their lead through Jordan Rhodes’ low strike.
A disastrous start in front of the Sky cameras could have been made worse on 13 minutes as Tom Lawrence strode forward with intent, only to lash his strike high and wide of Marco Silvestri’s goal amid boos from the home crowd.
But, from that point, United did start to see more of the ball and Evans’ side showed signs of springing into gear.
Lewis Cook carved out the hosts’ first sight of goal, turning away from his marker before firing into the arms of Jason Steele from range, while Mirco Antenucci was just beaten to Sam Byram’s dangerous ball over the top by the onrushing Blackburn ‘keeper.
United continued to improve as the half drew on and many inside Elland Road thought Antenucci had pulled one back on 33 minutes as the striker volleyed into the side-netting after evading the offside trap to latch onto Stuart Dallas’ flick over the top.
The nearest Evans’ men came to mounting a comeback inside the opening 45 minutes came on the stroke of half-time through Tom Adeyemi’s header, with the midfielder glancing Luke Murphy’s free-kick from deep onto the far post before Sol Bamba was unable to turn home the rebound.
Both teams re-emerged unchanged from the break, but Evans was prompted into his first substitution of the evening just six minutes into the second half, replacing Adeyemi with Jordan Botaka as his side searched for a way back into the game.
But Leeds were showing little goal threat since returning from the break, and it was Blackburn who looked more likely to grab the game’s third, with Silvestri holding efforts from Chris Taylor and Conway.
Souleymane Doukara was introduced in attack for Chris Wood after 68 minutes, while Blackburn were forced to play with 10 men for a brief period while Grant Hanley received treatment for a clash of heads.
Half chances for Lewis Cook and Antenucci kept Blackburn on their toes, but there was little to suggest United could force a way back into the game with sufficient time remaining to claim a result.
Botaka did threaten late on, though, rising well inside the area before nodding Dallas’ cross over the bar, before substitute Alex Mowatt saw a long-range strike deflected agonisingly wide as the game entered five minutes of added time. But there proved to be no late consolation on a night to forget at Elland Road.