A bad week at Leeds United was made worse as a crowd of 25,293 saw Blackburn Rovers take all three points at Elland Road.
Tom Cairney’s effort from close-range gave Rovers the lead, before a Jordan Rhodes header doubled Blackburn’s tally. Jay Spearing’s goal in the 80th minute secured the victory against a Leeds side who were reduced to 10 men, when Rudy Austin saw red for an off the ball incident with Rovers midfielder Ben Marshall.
It was the hosts however, who looked more threatening in the opening minutes. Adam Henley prevented Rudy Austin breaking into the Blackburn box before Charlie Taylor and Luke Murphy saw their efforts go wide. Rovers managed to get back into the match and Jordan Rhodes’ effort in the 13th minute hit the bar following a deflection off Leeds defender Sol Bamba. Rhodes had another great chance to open the scoring in 23rd minute but failed to convert from close range following a poor clearance from Bamba. Down the other end Leeds had their chances to take the lead, Rudy Austin failing to place his header from a Charlie Taylor cross. Leeds pressured again, Rovers debutant goalkeeper David Raya made a fantastic save to deny a Sam Byram volley which took a deflection off Matthew Kilgallon on the way through.
Leeds were then reduced to 10 men when an incident involving Austin and Marshall saw the Jamaican see red. Austin appeared to throw an arm at Marshall, which saw referee Gary Sutton take action.
Blackburn started the second half on the front foot, taking advantage of the extra man advantage. A low Rudy Gestede shot was kept out by a fine save from Marco Silvestri in the United net just minutes after the half had started. Much of the play happened in Leeds’ half before Tom Cairney opened the scoring in the 62nd minute. A mistimed Bellusci tackle left Leeds exposed, and Gestede provided Cairney with the ball and his volley beat Silvestri from the top of the box.
Gestede left the pitch injured just before Ben Marshall troubled the Leeds defence, his effort from 25 yards beat Silvestri but hit the post. Redfearn attempted to change his sides fortune by introducing Liam Cooper and Mirco Antenucci with near 25 minutes left, the Leeds faithful cheered at Antenucci’s introduction, following the news earlier in the week that boss Neil Redfearn was asked not to play the striker.
The result got worse for Leeds just before the 70th minute mark, when striker Jordan Rhodes headed in a Chris Brown cross, having been left totally unmarked inside the box. This was the Scottish striker’s 17th goal of the season. Leeds provided little chances of getting back into the game, an Alex Mowatt free kick deflected off the wall and out behind the goal.
Blackburn secured the victory with 10 minutes left of normal time, Jay Spearing was left with a back post tap-in as Blackburn easily broke Leeds’ defence. Billy Sharp was introduced in Steve Morison’s place with little time remaining before Murphy and Taylor both went into the referee’s book. Rhodes hit the woodwork again in added time, his left-footed effort from inside the box struck the post.
Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer said “I thought we were excellent”, adding that “we knew the crowd would get behind them and they gave Neil Redfearn tremendous support, but we were ruthless, which was pleasing”.
Leeds boss Neil Redfearn gave thanks to the Leeds support by saying that “the fans were brilliant today, as they have been all season. They appreciate what we have achieved”. He also gave his opinion on the Austin red card – “Rudy Austin pushed the lad in the chest with his forearm and the referee deemed it a red card. It was a big call on a linesman’s say-so and it was wrong.”
The result sums up a week of turmoil at the West Yorkshire club, with assistant Steve Thompson being suspended and the rumoured takeover of the club by energy drink firm Red Bull. The Leeds faithful however, showed their support to Redfearn, Thompson, and Mirco Antenucci throughout the game. The game also marked the 15th anniversary of the tragic deaths of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, and a minute silence took place before kick-off, which was observed by both sets of supporters.
The game itself left many Leeds supporters frustrated at the problems caused earlier in the week. The reaction on social media sums up a bad week for all those associated with Leeds United.
However, on the other side of the coin, Blackburn fans were happy to see their side retain a position in the top 10 and to see a victory before their sides Wednesday night FA Cup replay against Liverpool.