The team were knocked out of the competition by a lower league opponent for the first time in four years as a place in the Quarter Finals slipped away from Nigel Adkins’ men.
Having played a Premier League fixture just 48 hours earlier, there were eleven changes to the visitors, but the fresh team were given a tough workout by Neil Warnock’s side who struck in each half to seal a passage into the Last 8.
Michael Tonge set Leeds on their way with a long range drive ten minutes before the break, and although the second half was a close affair, two late strikes inside the final five minutes through El-Hadji Diouf and a penalty from substitute Luciano Becchio put a heavier slant on the scoreline.
Leeds: Ashdown, Peltier (Pugh 89), Lees, Pearce, White, Byram, Austin, Brown, Tonge, Varney (Becchio 89), Diouf (Gray 90). Subs (not used): Kenny, Drury, Green, Norris.
Saints: K. Davis, Butterfield, Hooiveld, Seaborne, Reeves, Ward-Prowse, Chaplow, De Ridder (Isgrove 66), Guly, Lee (Shaw 66), Mayuka. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Stephens, Chambers, Hoskins, Sinclair.
Referee: Chris Foy
Adkins named a fresh starting eleven from Sunday’s game against Tottenham, with Kelvin Davis returning in goal.
Tadanari Lee also returned to action, and he was partnered in attack by Emmanuel Mayuka, who made his first start for the club.
The visitors got the match underway with Guly and Mayuka taking the first touches for Saints, who lined up in predominantly red, attacking the Don Revie Stand on a cool night inside Elland Road.
Kelvin Davis was the first ‘keeper to be tested on the night when he punched clear from Michael Tonge’s early whipped free-kick into the area during a busy start to the contest.
Saints settled into a familiar pattern of play through midfield with some cohesive passing to keep possession as they also looked to utilise the pace of Mayuka down the centre.
For all the encouragement of the start made by the visitors, Leeds should have been in front on 14 minutes. However, first Varney and then inexplicably, Diouf, each contrived to miss a couple of almost open goals inside the six yard area.
Following the pair of unbelievable strikes off target, the Whites followed up with a weak header from Tonge that went over, as clear chancers for both sides remained at a premium in the opening 20 minutes.
On 27 Varney latched on to Sam Byram’s pass but sidefooted well wide after cutting in from the left side, but almost a minute later the former Portsmouth striker went even closer when he capitalised on Dan Seaborne’s loose clearance and poked a shot towards goal as Davis raced out. Fortunately for Saints, the effort clattered the crossbar and came back into play with no damage done.
The visitors were certainly weathering a storm as play reached the half hour mark and a ricocheted header from Rodolph Austin which went wide, only served to delay the inevitable when the hosts took the lead in the 35th minute.
Varney’s low cross into the centre from the left was poked out by Hooiveld, but only as far as TONGE who drilled in from the edge of the area into the unguarded net for 1-0.
Saints looked for a quick response and came close to unlocking the Whites down the right hand side where De Ridder and Butterfield linked up, but the final ball into the area was just out of reach for Mayuka as Ashdown collected at his near post.
The home side swiftly organised themselves to see out the half with their lead intact, leaving Adkins’ men with work to do to stay in the competition.
Half Time: Leeds Utd 1-0 Saints
There were no changes from either side at the break; with the slender lead not enough to force either manager into making a change whilst the potential of extra-time and spot kicks remained.
Leeds were given an early opportunity to increase their lead when Hooiveld was adjudged to have fouled Varney 25 yards from goal, but El-Hadji-Diouf’s lofted free-kick floated high over Davis’s goal.
Saints were unable to regain some of the fluidity they had displayed in the first half and were put under another wave of pressure towards the hour mark which they did well to ride out, with Davis notably keeping out another effort from Varney in a dangerous looking one-on-one.
Adkins made a double substitution on 66 with Luke Shaw replacing Tadanari Lee and winger Lloyd Isgrove making his senior debut in place of De Ridder.
The switch saw Ben Reeves move further forward as Shaw took up his natural position at left back.
It drew a chance for the visitors when a deep cross from Reeves was narrowly missed by Isgrove but fell to Mayuka, whose shot flashed just wide of the far post.
The running from Isgrove restored some pace on the flanks with the exuberance of both he and Reeves in the final third, starting to create openings for the visitors.
After heeding more possession to the hosts, Saints put together some further clever approach play with Chaplow almost finding Mayuka on the back of a well-crafted break, as it was now the turn of the hosts to withstand pressure with the action entering the last ten minutes.
But the nail in the coffin was hammered home on 86 minutes when an all too easy burst forward from Rodolph Austin resulted in a shot which Davis got a firm hand to, but the ball cruelly rebounded into the path of DIOUF who had the simple task of tapping in from close range to seal the Whites’ progress.
Salt was further rubbed into the wound during stoppage time when a penalty was awarded when a Leeds man went down inside the area. Substitute BECCHIO stepped up to send Davis the wrong way for a third strike without reply as the hosts booked their place in the Last 8 of the competition.
Full Time: Leeds Utd 3-0 Saints