Late penalty sinks Leeds United on Evans' return to Rotherham
Steve Evans did not enjoy his first trip back to the New York Stadium as Rotherham United completed a league double over Leeds United with an amazing 2-1 victory in a game in which both teams ended up with 10 men.
The fifth win in six games for the Millers boosted their hopes of avoiding the drop while possibly throwing Leeds back into the relegation melting pot unless they can get at least a couple more wins from somewhere.
Evans was left wondering just how he did not bring at least a point back to West Yorkshire after his team looked set to go on to win when hitting back from a goal down against opponents reduced to 10 men from just after the hour mark when Matt Derbyshire was red carded for an elbow on Gaetano Berardi.
But Leeds ended with 10 men also after goalkeeper Marco Silvestri was sent-off for a foul on Lee Frecklington in the 90th minute following a massive defensive error by Giuseppe Bellusci and the resulting penalty gave the Millers a win they really did not deserve, but should give them great impetus to stay up.
Without ever creating much in the way of clear chances Leeds looked largely in control in the first half only to find themselves behind to Rotherham’s first shot on target.
Lee Frecklington hit a snap shot wide from distance in the opening minute, but the Millers had to wait another 26 minutes for their second effort on goal as Leeds kept the ball at times.
The hosts did have one threat with Greg Halford’s long throws every time they got within sight of the box, but they were dealt with.
Mirco Antenucci looked lively for the visitors and got an early shot in from just inside the box only to send the ball over. Alex Mowatt was off target from range before the first real chance came on 18 minutes when Chris Wood - back in a starting role up front - teed up Antenucci on the edge of the box, but the Italian’s shot was well saved by home keeper Lee Camp.
The opening goal came at the other end and came out of the blue as Frecklington met a left wing cross to slide in and send a half-volley past keeper Marco Silvestri, taking advantage of Charlie Taylor perhaps still feeling the effects of being hit in a painful spot moments earlier from which he had not fully recovered.
Leeds did not deserve to be behind at this stage and looked to hit back when Giuseppe Bellusi ballooned a free-kick over and Toumani Diagouraga was denied by a good block from home defender Stephen Kelly.
Antenucci’s shot from the edge of the box was not far wide, but Rotherham threatened again just before half-time as Grant Ward hit a shot over from inside the box and Kirk Broadfoot headed over under pressure from one of Halford’s long throws.
Rotherham had the first eight of goal in the second half as a Halford throw was only half-cleared and the ball fell invitingly to Richie Smallwood, but he fired wide.
Leeds went straight down the other end to win a corner and from it Wood’s looping header was turned over the bar by Camp.
With the goalmouth action hotting up, it was Rotherham’s turn to go close with a Leon Best header from a long range free-kick.
It was hot headed action next when the home team was reduced to 10 men as Matt Derbyshire was sent-off for an elbow on Gaetano Berardi which left the Leeds right-back needing attention with blood pouring from his head.
He remained off the field for six minutes while being patched up before returning with a bandage on his head and will certainly remember Rotherham as it was the same opponents against who he got a broken jaw earlier in the season when Leon Best elbowed him.
With tempers still flared and the heat up in the stadium, Bellusci trod a fine line when he committed a heavy foul soon after and was booked.
Leeds, by now, had changed formation with wingers Stuart Dallas and Mustapha Carayol brought on to replace youngsters Mowatt and Lewis Cook - to accompanying boos from many of the travelling supporters.
But when it was back to football Leeds went close to an equaliser when Antenucci produced a superb run and low shot that was only matched by a fingertip save by Camp.
Berardi sent an ambitious angled volley over before being taken off soon after to be replaced by midfielder Luke Murphy in a change of tactics that saw a new three at the back formation for the last 20 minutes.
With their extra man it was all Leeds now, but Antenucci saw an angled shot saved after a smart turn in the box and Bamba headed a corner wide.
Just when it looked the ball would not go in a piece of luck finally came the visitors’ way when Murphy’s 25-yard shot took a wicked deflection to leave Camp with no chance in the home goal.
Evans’ men went for the winner and Liam Bridcutt hit a fine 25-yarder that had to be tipped over by Camp. Murphy then tried his luck again with a low 20-yard effort that Camp held onto well.
But somehow Leeds managed to find a way to lose as Bellusci failed to cut out a Danny Ward cross going for an acrobatic overhead clearance and keeper Silvestri ended up tripping Frecklington.
Silvestri was immediately shown a red card as he was last man. With no subs left, Bellusci had to go in goal and he could not keep out Halford’s spot-kick as Rotherham somehow went back in front.
Still the drama was not over as in injury-time Wood was presented with a great chance when free inside the box only to slice his shot wide and Bamba hit another shot wide when well placed - and Leeds were left wondering how they managed to lose this game.
Rotherham United 2
(Frecklington 27, Halford 90, pen)
Leeds United 1
Saturday, April 2, 2016
Sky Bet Championship
Rotherham: Camp, Kelly, Broadfoot, Doyley, Mattock, G Ward (Richardson 90), Halford, Frecklington, Smallwood (Newell 80), Derbyshire, Best (D Ward 64).
Leeds: Silvestri, Berardi (Murphy 74), Bellusci, Bamba, Taylor, Cook (Carayol 58), Bridcutt, Diagouraga, Mowatt (Dallas 58), Antenucci, Wood.
Referee: Kevin Friend.