Leeds United scored early in each half to beat Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United and move into the top half of the Premier League.
Leeds were firmly on top at a sunny Elland Road and took an early lead as Raphinha squared for Jack Harrison to tap in his seventh goal of the season.
The hosts were made to rue their missed chances in first-half stoppage time as Ben Osborn forced the ball over the line after Oli McBurnie’s shot deflected into his path.
But Leeds were back in front inside four minutes of the second half, Phil Jagielka turning Harrison’s low cross into his own net with Raphinha lurking.
Substitutes Rhian Brewster and Oliver Burke went close to a late equaliser for the relegation-threatened visitors, who are now 14 points from safety with eight games left.
But Leeds were worthy winners on a day they remembered fans Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, who were killed in Turkey before their Uefa Cup game against Galatasaray in April 2000, and the club’s record goalscorer and former captain Peter Lorimer who died last month.
Leeds’ only change to the side which won at Fulham before the international break saw current captain Liam Cooper return in defence, but Raphinha and fellow midfielders Tyler Roberts and Stuart Dallas shone as Leeds edged above Aston Villa into 10th place.
Leeds boost bid for top-half finish
Sheffield United’s interim manager Paul Heckingbottom returned to Elland Road for the first time since having four eventful months in charge of Leeds at the end of the 2017-18 season, and he found a club revitalised under his successor.
The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa in June 2018 was a statement of intent and marked an end to the managerial revolving door at Leeds as they fought to earn a return to the Premier League.
The Argentine transformed the team’s playing style and led them back to the promised land at the second time of asking. Now they’re targeting their first top-10 finish in the Premier League since 2001-02 and continue to play the free-flowing, high-pressing football Bielsa demands.
His team swarmed around the visitors from the outset, earning a free-kick inside 10 seconds which Raphinha curled over. Kalvin Phillips caught John Lundstram napping to test Aaron Ramsdale, who also parried a Dallas shot from outside the box.
Dallas then won back possession from Enda Stevens deep inside the Sheffield United half, Roberts found Raphinha and the Brazilian winger ghosted past George Baldock before gifting Harrison an open goal.
Another flowing move resulted in Luke Ayling having a shot blocked and Harrison fired wide from Roberts’ slide-rule pass, before Roberts fired wide himself.
And although their Yorkshire rivals drew level on the stroke of half-time, Leeds regained the lead shortly after the break. Roberts hit a superb cross-field ball to Harrison on the left and the on-loan Manchester City winger’s ball behind Jagielka forced an own goal from the veteran defender.
Moments later, Dallas curled towards the top corner, only to see his shot clip the angle of crossbar and post. The Northern Ireland midfielder also dragged a shot wide as Leeds spurned several chances to snuff out Sheffield United’s hopes of a late leveller.
Blades almost snatch vital point
With Sheffield United well adrift at the bottom of the table, Heckingbottom was not expected to keep them up when he was handed the reins after Chris Wilder’s departure last month.
But the Blades were given some encouragement before kick-off as second-bottom West Brom earned an unexpected survival boost with victory in the lunchtime kick-off at Chelsea.
It would be some feat of escapology if Sheffield United can survive, and they almost snatched a point from a game that Leeds seemed in control of.
They equalised with their only shot on target as captain David McGoldrick swept John Fleck’s pass on to strike partner McBurnie. His shot across goal was deflected towards Osborn and although his effort was blocked by Ayling, the Leeds defender was well behind the goalline.
There was some confusion in the first half as Baldock had treatment after suffering a blow to the head yet played on for 11 minutes before being replaced by Ethan Ampadu. However, the visitors immediately substituted Jayden Bogle when he suffered a head injury in the second half.
Bogle had gone close as Leeds failed to kill the game off, having a shot blocked after being found by Fleck. And Brewster’s powerful volley from outside the box swerved wide before Burke’s low shot on the break was turned past the post by Leeds keeper Illan Meslier.
‘It left a sensation that we were hanging on’ – what they said
Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa: “We think we managed to dominate large parts of the game. We had chances to score more goals and there were a lot of dangerous actions that didn’t finish in shots that would have increased the number of chances we had.
“But as we didn’t establish more than a one-goal difference and as we didn’t convert any more of these chances, the final part of the game left a sensation that we were hanging on.”
Sheffield United interim boss Paul Heckingbottom: “When the players give everything, when they leave everything on the pitch, you can’t be too critical, and I’ve said that from the moment I started working with them.
“But the story of the game was we gave Leeds their best chances through giving the ball away and our lack of quality in key moments. That meant we couldn’t capitalise when we were in good areas and gave Leeds too many chances on the break to open us up.
“It’s been a tough season, but we have to look forward. We can’t dwell on it, and that’s the focus with me and my staff. Everyone’s got a responsibility to finish the season with their heads held high and try to give as much as possible for this club.”
Another own goal for veteran Jagielka – the stats
- Leeds have completed the league double over Sheffield United for the first time since 1991-92, when they won the top-flight title.
- Leeds registered at least 20 shots in a Premier League game for the fifth time this season (23 in total), with only Manchester City doing so more often this term (6).
- Raphinha’s assist for Jack Harrison’s opener was his sixth in the Premier League this season – no Leeds player has more in the competition this term.
- Sheffield United suffered their 24th league defeat of the season in just 30 games – in their league history they’ve only ever lost more in 1975-76 (26/42) and 2010-11 (26/46).
- Sheffield United’s goal was just their seventh away in the Premier League all season, with this their first in five away league games (since 2-1 win at Manchester United in January).
- Only Richard Dunne (10) has scored more Premier League own goals than Phil Jagielka (7). Jagielka is the second-oldest outfield player (38y 229d) to score an own goal in the competition, after Stuart Pearce against Manchester United in January 2001 (38y 252d).
Leeds visit Premier League leaders Manchester City next Saturday (12:30 BST) before Sheffield United host Arsenal next Sunday (19:00).
- 15DallasSubstituted forKochat 90+3′minutes
- 11RobertsSubstituted forKlichat 81′minutes
- 9BamfordSubstituted forRodrigoat 65′minutesBooked at 85mins
- 17Hélder Costa
- 2BaldockSubstituted forAmpaduat 45′minutes
- 20BogleSubstituted forBrewsterat 73′minutes
- 7LundstramBooked at 4mins
- 16NorwoodSubstituted forBurkeat 65′minutes
- 17McGoldrickBooked at 43mins
- 9McBurnieSubstituted forEganat 77′minutes
- Graham Scott
Match ends, Leeds United 2, Sheffield United 1.
Second Half ends, Leeds United 2, Sheffield United 1.
Offside, Sheffield United. Enda Stevens tries a through ball, but Ben Osborn is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Rodrigo (Leeds United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Raphinha.
Substitution, Leeds United. Robin Koch replaces Stuart Dallas.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Phil Jagielka.
Attempt missed. Jack Harrison (Leeds United) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Mateusz Klich.
Foul by Mateusz Klich (Leeds United).
Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Oliver Burke (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Rhian Brewster.
Attempt missed. Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Foul by Raphinha (Leeds United).
David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Rodrigo (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Rodrigo (Leeds United).
John Fleck (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Diego Llorente.
Substitution, Leeds United. Mateusz Klich replaces Tyler Roberts.
Attempt missed. Stuart Dallas (Leeds United) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Raphinha following a fast break.
Foul by Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United).