Leeds United’s dismal form on Tuesday nights continued with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Hull City at Elland Road. Despite a rip-roaring start which saw the Whites take an early lead, the defensive frailties which were so apparent last season returned as Neil Warnock’s side handed the Tigers three goals and all three points.
Luciano Becchio’s 8th minute penalty was cancelled out by a defensive howler which handed Ahmed Elmohamady an equaliser. Abdoulaye Faye headed Hull in front on 29 minutes before Robert Koren’s strike 14 minutes from time sealed the points. Andy Gray’s first competitive goal for Leeds, 16 years after his debut, in stoppage time turned out to be nothing more than a consolation.
The Whites made two changes from the side that lost at Cardiff on Saturday. Ross McCormack and Adam Drury, both injured in Wales at the weekend were replaced by Luke Varney and El-Hadji Diouf, with Aidy White dropping into the left back position.
Hull included former United man Alex Bruce in a three man back line, flooding the midfield with five men with Danny Simpson and Sone Aluko up front.
Leeds tore into the opposition from the kick off, full of invention and iniative, even Luke Varney looking like he was capable of causing problems. The bright start was rewarded with a goal, even though it was through a rather dubious decision by the referee. Diouf made a decent run down the right, cutting inside Joe Dudgeon who brought him down. It was the linesman who gave the decision, but he did not make the usual signal of placing his flag across his chest, pointing for a free kick. The referee though pointed to the spot, and after consulting his assistant, stuck to the decision although it appeared as if the challenge had taken place outside the box.
Hearts were in mouths as Becchio stepped up to take the kick, the Argentinean striker having missed all of his previous penalties for the Whites. This time though he tucked the ball away, beating Amos in the Hull goal on his left hand side.
Leeds continued to press forward, Becchio with a header and a Rodolph Austin shot working the keeper. But momentum was lost as play was held up following a challenge on Faye by Sam Byram. Despite the teenager winning the ball in a fierce challenge which the referee deemed as a fair one, Faye rolled around on the floor in an attempt to get the youngster into trouble. Faye limped off, only to run back on immediately.
That incident seemed to fire the Tigers up and they began to claw their way back into the game. With Leeds beginning to buckle under the pressure, the defence conspired to gift Elmohamady the leveller. With the ball on the edge of their own box, Aidy White found himself out of position and got in the way of Jason Pearce, who could only poke the ball into the path of the former Sunderland man who fired a shot past Kenny.
Six minutes later Hull went in front as Elmohamady was left in acres of space on the righ and floated in a delightful cross over the head of Pearce an on a plate for Faye to powerfully head home, the “injury” of moments earlier now forgotten.
Hull were now in total control of the game and Paddy Kenny was forced into a good save from a Koren free kick. The interval was a blessing for Leeds and it was clear some harsh words were required from Neil Warnock at half time.
However things didn’t improve after the break. With United’s front three pressing right on top of the Hull back line, there was plenty of space for City’s five man midfield to maintain possession, leaving Michael Tonge and Rodolph Austin with far too much ground to cover. An inability to maintain possession at the front saw Leeds under sustained pressure.
The introduction of Dom Poleon got the crowd excited with some pacy runs and at least showed some attacking intent. However Leeds were unable to get him on the ball enough to cause any sustained trouble for the Hull defence.
There was a slightly controversial element to Hull’s decisive third goal. With Leeds on the attack, the referee decided to hold up play for a “head” injury to a Hull player, despite the fact he allowed the Whites to play on for several seconds before making the decision to halt the game. Hull cleared their lines on the restart and within a minute or so had added a third. Once again White was caught woefully out of position in the middle of the park, allowing Aluko a free run down the right. His cross found Koren at the six yards out, the Slovenian international unerringly driving the ball home.
Leeds huffed and puffed in the closing moments, and earned a consolation on 90 minutes, Andy Gray rising to head home a Diouf corner. Despite five added minutes, Leeds were unable to create another opportunity and saw the points disappear down the M62 to the East Coast.
The result leaves Leeds looking over their shoulder towards the bottom of the table, sitting just two points outside the relegation zone in 13th place. After the match Neil Warnock revealed that Ross McCormack was expected to be out for between six to eight weeks with his ankle injury, and with a tough looking game against Nottingham Forest on Saturday followed by the visit of Everton next week in the Capital One Cup, the tasks do not get any easier for the Whites.