Despite finishing with 10 men Leeds United produced their best performance of the season as they earned West Yorkshire derby bragging rights with a 3-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
First half goals from Rudy Austin and Mirco Antenucci had the Whites in charge at 2-0 at half-time and when Souleymane Doukara added a third after the break it was cheers all the way for the vast majority of the 29,131 crowd.
It was not all plain sailing as right-back Gaetano Berardi was sent-off for the second time since joining the club when receiving a second yellow card 17 minutes from time, but Leeds still finished strongly to complete a win that sees them climb up to 11th place in the SkyBet Championship.
Huddersfield played some decent football at times and had big threats in wingers Harry Bunn and Sean Scannell, but did not manage a single shot on target.
Leeds looked lively early on without being able to supply the final pass, but went ahead on 19 minutes when Antenucci blocked Joel Lynch’s attempted clearance and the ball fell to Austin on the edge of the box. He then fired a powerful shot that seemed to go through Town keeper Alex Smithies as it found its way into the back of the net.
Nahki Wells and Bunn hit efforts off target for the visitors as they also looked lively in a derby game that was more notable for some good football rather than the usual blood and thunder.
Jonathan Hogg headed a decent chance wide for Huddersfield then Bunn fired wide again, but Leeds showed how to finish in first half injury-time as Giuseppe Bellusci made an interception in his own box then decided to charge forward. Antenucci got on the end of the clearance and played a perfect through ball back to the centre-back, who then beat Smithies with an exquisite chip only to see it hit the crossbar. However, the ball came back to Antenucci who netted in off the bar to make it 2-0.
The interval lead flattered United , but allowed them to sit a bit deeper in the second period and catch their opponents on the break. The tactic worked well and saw them keep a certain control on proceedings.
Town did threaten in the air with centre-back Mark Hudson heading wide twice in a minute from a corner and a free-kick and Wells saw an effort well blocked by Bellusci following one of several good runs by Bunn on the left flank. At the other end Antenucci’s goalbound shot hit a defender’s arm only for referee Chris Foy to wave away big appeals for a penalty.
But it was Leeds on target again on 69 minutes when Doukara raced onto a terrific through ball from Austin before calmly planting his shot into the corner of the net to make it 3-0.
Within a minute Antenucci went down on the edge of the box after racing onto another through ball with no foul given. Then Doukara bent a shot just wide as United’s play threatened more goals.
They went down to 10 men on 73 minutes as Berardi, who had struggled all day against Bunn, did his second lunging tackle and looked up to see the second yellow card coming his way. It meant his second sending off in just four games for United.
Leeds saw out the remainder well, however, with the fans taunting Huddersfield supporters about only having 10 men.
Town did have one great chance when substitute Jon Stead fired horribly over with only keeper Marco Silvestri to beat, but it was the hosts who looked more likely to score again in the closing stages.
The industrious Antenucci raced clear from his own half and was only denied his second goal by the fingertips of Smithies who’s crucial touch took the ball onto the post. This time it went the wrong way for Leeds off the post, but it was their fans doing their celebrating at the finish.
United caretaker boss Neil Redfearn was understandably delighted with the win and performance.
He said: “I thought it was a measured performance. From the first whistle to the last we were excellent today
“We passed the ball well and we competed well with Huddersfield. You could see the players wanted to track back then when they got the ball they expressed themselves.
“They are starting to get more and more belief. They’re a young side and can only get better.
“I said to the lads the sky’s the limit for you now. You’ve got to make sure they get that good feeling after most games.
“For me Mirco Antenucci was outstanding. He gives you energy up front, no ball is a bad ball.
“His first touch is always taking him away from people and he’s a good finisher.”
Leeds United 3
(Austin 19, Antenucci 45+1, Doukara 69)
Huddersfield Town 0
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Leeds: Silvestri, Berardi (sent-off 73), Bellusci, Pearce, Warnock, Cook, Bianchi, Austin (Tonge 90), Sloth (Byram 74), Antenucci, Doukara (Morison 85)
Huddersfield: Smithies, Peltier, Hudson, Lynch, Robinson, Scannell (Stead 74), Hogg (Ward 59), Coady, Butterfield, Bunn, Wells.
Referee: Chris Foy