A goal in each half by Mirco Antenucci enabled Leeds United to end their long run of failure against Derby County and left the Sky Bet Championship leaders stunned at Elland Road.
There was no fluke about the 2-0 victory as United produced one of their best all-round performances of the season and denied their high flying visitors a single effort on target throughout the whole game.
Derby started like the league leaders as they knocked the ball about with confidence from the kick-off, but crucially they were denied any clear sights at goal as the home back four, with Giuseppe Bellusci surprisingly included ahead of skipper Jason Pearce, stood firm.
The booking count far outweighed the chances initially as Tomasso Bianchi, Souleymane Doukara and Liam Cooper all went into referee Mick Russell’s notebook in the first 26 minutes and Derby’s Cyrus Christie and Omar Mascarell were yellow carded. The latter could have seen red after getting away with two bookable offences before finally being cautioned.
The first serious shot did not come until the 34th minute when Alex Mowatt saw his well struck effort turned away by Derby keeper Lee Grant.
It gave Leeds impetus, however, and Antenucci blazed over after the ball fell to him from a corner then Doukara was closer with a shot from the edge of the box.
United went ahead two minutes before half-time when Mowatt took the ball off highly rated Derby midfielder Will Hughes, drove into the box and pulled the ball back for Antenucci, who calmly stroked home his sixth goal of the season.
In the second half Leeds carried on where they left off before the break with Doukara’s effort from the edge of the box going close.
They doubled the lead on 50 minutes when the impressive Stephen Warnock burst onto the ball down the left and pulled it back. Doukara dummied and Antenucci did well to get a shot away to send the ball into the corner of the net.
Derby looked to respond, but it was still United creating the chances as Sam Byram burst into the box only to see his low shot saved.
Leeds breathed a sigh of relief when at the other end a free-kick and not a penalty was given as Christie went down and the resulting shot was then hit straight into the wall.
But Leeds were still a threat as Antenucci came within a whisker of his first hat-trick for the club with a low shot that was well saved by Grant and another effort that was inches over with the keeper beaten.
Derby blew their big chance to get back in the game on 81 minutes as Warnock’s desperate last ditch tackle led to the ball going straight to Kwame Thomas, but the visiting substitute blazed the ball over from inside the box.
Although the Rams threw men forward they could not create another opening and it was the hosts who could have scored again late on as Antenucci was played clear by strike partner Doukara and got to the ball ahead of the onrushing Grant only for the keeper to block his effort.
Head coach Neil Redfearn was obviously pleased with the result and the performance.
He said: “We were excellent today and I thought it was a great game with both teams trying to play football.
“Not only did we play well, we showed mental toughness to get over the line.
“I thought Derby played their part, but we out-passed them today and had a cutting edge.
“The finishing was out of the top drawer. Mirco Antenucci’s got awareness about the box, he’s got quick feet, gives you energy and finishes well.
“I think we’ve been playing well and not getting what we deserved, but today we played well and did get what we deserved.
“We’re trying to build a team and put a team together and I was really pleased with what happened out there today.
“We’ve just beaten the top of the league and they are enjoying their football, that’s the good thing. But we can’t get carried away.”
Leeds United 2
(Antenucci 43, 50)
Derby County 0
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Silvestri, Byram, Bellusci, Cooper, Warnock, Bianchi (Austin 68), Cook, Mowatt, Adryan (Tonge 90), Doukara, Antenucci.
Derby: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Shotton, Forsyth, Russell (Bryson 66), Mascarell (Dawkins 66), Hughes, Hendrick, Ibe (Thomas 66), Martin.
Referee: Mick Russell.