A first defeat under head coach Marcelo Bielsa, going behind in a game for the first time and failing to score for the first time - all things that had to come, but in unexpected ways against a gritty Preston side who went away with a 2-0 victory.
The visitors were gifted a dream start when referee Tony Harrington pointed to the spot in the opening minute to give them a penalty put away by Daniel Johnson.
They ended the first half as they began it with a second goal, a brilliant solo effort by Brandon Barker, but went down to 10 men on the half-hour when Harrington produced a red card to dismiss Ryan Ledson for a reckless lunge on Lewis Baker.
Bielsa made his expected changes with a big league game on Friday night, bringing in nine who did not start against Norwich last Saturday with only defender Pontus Jansson and midfielder Kalvin Phillips keeping their place.
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They looked all over the place defensively at the start and after right-back Stuart Dallas gave the ball away it was quickly delivered into the box where Louis Moult was brought down by Conor Shaughnessy, who stuck a leg out, according to Harrington.
Up stepped Johnson to send Jamal Blackman the wrong way from the spot and Preston had a flying start.
It could been two almost straight away as Barker’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected just wide.
Leeds did settle and came close themselves though Tyler Roberts’ shot and Jamie Shackleton’s volley that was tipped over by visitors’ keeper Chris Maxwell. A header by Jansson from a corner then went over.
At the other end Blackman saved comfortably from Tom Barkhuizen’s shot from the edge of the box and Barker’s effort also from 18 yards out.
Preston were then reduced to 10 men with Ledson’s dangerous lunge punished and United turned up the heat. Patrick’s Bamford’s superb swerving shot was well saved by Maxwell, who then had a much easier save to make from a weak header by the Leeds number nine.
Jack Harrison woke up after being largely anonymous and showed good feet on the edge of the box to work some space before firing a shot just over.
Preston still offered a threat even with 10 men as Barkhuizen and Johnson sent shots over before they stunned the home crowd in added time.
There was nothing on when Barker got the ball inside his own half, but he ran into space, all too comfortably went past Conor Shaughnessy and fired a shot into the top corner. A high class goal even if there was some suspect defending in there.
Still before the whistle Leeds fashioned another half-chance, but Bamford could only produce a weak finish onto a ball over the top of the Preston defence.
Into the second half Leeds exerted pressure straight away with the introduction of Samu Saiz and Mateusz Klich for younger players Shaughnessy and Shackleton with Kalvin Phillips going into the back four.
Saiz was quickly on the ball setting up Bamford, but the striker could only hit the side netting with his shot. Jansson then sent a glancing header wide from a corner.
But Preston coped well defensively and their blatant time wasting tactics were met with frustration in the crowd and on the pitch. The Whites struggled to create clear chances and were unhappy when Saiz appeared to be bundled over in the area without a penalty being given.
Third substitute Ezgjan Alioski volleyed over after Maxwell had flapped at a high ball, but it took United until the last 10 minutes to finally look like they had an extra man.
By this stage the confidence seemed to have been sucked out of the Whites side, however, and although several half-chances were made there was never the feeling that Leeds were going to pull off a late comeback.
Lewis Baker and Bamford sent efforts wide, Alioski was closer with a shot from the edge of the area after playing a one-two and Maxwell saved Jansson’s header.
In added time Saiz volleyed wide from the edge of the area, Baker saw his low shot tipped wide by Maxwell and in the last action of the game Jansson sent a glancing header wide from the 13th home corner on the night.
After the game Bielsa said: “We didn’t play well, but I don’t think it should have been a loss for us.
“Usually when we have three offensive actions we score a goal. Today we had 12 and didn’t score. We were not good enough to elaborate the offensive actions.
“We had opportunities to make crosses and to score a goal, but didn’t take them. We didn’t connect the crosses we made with a man in the box. Maybe we tried to play too much from the middle, but it was a zone with many bodies and we didn’t find a gate.
“We played against physical opponents and we usually find solutions. It took us too much time from the back to play the ball forward.
“The transition from defence to attack got easier when one of their players got sent-off, but when we were on numerical equality it was hard for us to make actions. We couldn’t get rid of the pressure when we tried to play out of the back.”
Bielsa added: “We have to do some individual analysis and to evaluate some young players. You cannot evaluate Shaughnessy, Pearce and Shackleton the way you would Saiz, Alioski and Phillips.”
Leeds United 0
Preston North End 2
(Johnson 2, pen, Barker 45+1)
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Carabao Cup, round two
Leeds: Blackman, Dallas, Shaughnessy (Saiz 45), Jansson, Pearce, Phillips, Roberts (Alioski 60), Baker, Shackleton (Klich 45), Harrison, Bamford.
Preston: Maxwell, Fisher, Storey, Davies, Earl, Barkhuizen, Ledson (sent-off 30), Johnson (Pearson 72), Harrop, Barker (Browne 72), Moult (Nmecha 74).
Referee: Tony Harrington.