LEEDS UNITED’S bid to exact a spot of revenge for that famous 1973 FA Cup final loss to Sunderland at Wembley failed to materialise as they bowed out of the cup on Wearside in a single-goal defeat.
In the first meeting of the two clubs in the world’s most enduring cup competition since that fateful final of May 5, 1973, Leeds failed to defy the odds like their Sunderland predecessors of 1972-73, with the higher-division side prevailing.
It ensured Leeds started 2015 with another defeat, their fifth in their last six outings and while they were second-best to the hosts, an improved, competitive second-half at least gives Neil Redfearn and his charges something to build on for Saturday’s crunch Championship trip to Bolton Wanderers.
A much-changed Leeds side, who included debutant Dario Del Fabro and also included Brian Montenegro, handed his first start, succumbed to a 33rd-minute strike from Patrick van Aanholt as they bowed out at the third-round stage for the fourth time in five years.
Leeds, after a lame first half, did improve on the restart and were far more competitive and handed Gus Poyet’s Black Cats a couple of scares.
The biggest one arrived in stoppage-time when captain-for-the-day Liam Cooper headed a cross from the recalled Luke Murphy onto the post.
But it was Sunderland, who had won just once on home soil this season ahead of the game, who booked their place in the hat for round four.
United, who brought back Casper Sloth and Murphy from the equivalent of footballing exile to hand them rare starts, went close to leveller through Adryan and Montenegro, although it was a day in which Marco Silvestri made several telling saves to keep the scoreline down and Sunderland’s attacking department misfired.
A number of Sunderland’s class of 73 were introduced to the Wearside crowd ahead of the game, including legendary goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery, who broke Leeds hearts at Wembley, Dennis Tueart, Dick Malone and Micky Horswill.
As they waved to the crowd, a chorus of We Are Leeds came from the away end, showing early defiance, with it now over to the players bedecked in white to show similar spirit.
Leeds started with full debutant Brian Montenegro in a left-sided attacking role, supporting loane striker Mirco Antenucci, with Adryan handed creative licence just behind.
A quiet start did not hint at much before Sunderland got their act together, posting a particular threat down the left.
First, Emanuele Giaccherini twisted and turned his way past Gaetano Berardi before seeing his effort beaten away competently by Marco Silvestri, one of just four survivors from the side who lined up at Derby.
From the resulting corner, the Black Cats again went close with Ricardo Alvarez seeing his shot deflected onto the crossbar.
The exercise was self-evidently on containment for Leeds and then breaking out when the opportunity arose, but there were precious few moments of that, with the hosts - with just one home win to their name this term - seeking redress at the expense of the visitors.
Another scare for Leeds arrived on 19 minutes which could and should have yielded a home opener.
Jordi Gomez’s first-time ball picked out the rampaging full-back Patrick van Aanholt, handing Leeds a nightmare down their right, whose fine low cross found Stephen Fletcher in front of goal, but he blazed over at full stretch from point-blank range.
It looked a matter of time before a home opener arrived and another dangerous moment came not long after when Gomez’s outswinging corner was headed towards goal by Santiago Vergini, whose downward header was blocked on the line by Sloth.
Leeds’ resistance was finally broken, unsurprisingly down their right, which Sunderland had exposed from the opening stages with Fletcher’s lay-off finding van Aanholt, who crowned his excellent half with a raking low shot which flew past Silvestri on 33 minutes.
Going forward, Leeds lacked belief and fluency, with their only substantive moment coming just before half-time when a neat one-two between Rudy Austin and Mirco Antenucci saw the former, briefly, looking like he could power an effort in on goal, only for John O’Shea to make a timely challenge.
That aside, Leeds’ offensive efforts were non-existant, but thankfully, the visitors awoke from their slumber to post some genuine threat in the early stages of the second half.
First, Antenucci found Adryan, but his point-blank effort was blocked by Costel Pantilimon, who had nothing to do in the first half before Montenegro tested the reactions of the Black Cats keeper at his near post.
A foul by substitute Seb Larsson just outside the box on Taylor brought further encouragement with the free-kick blazed over by Austin before Sloth wriggled clear down the right before delivering a dangerous ball across the face of the box which just evaded Montenegro.
Perhaps lulled into a comfort zone after Leeds’ derisory efforts in the first half when it was a stroll for the hosts, Sunderland were guility of taking their foot off the pedal on the restart, which it taking time for the Wearsiders to get going.
They eventually did, with Fletcher denied a goal by an offside flag before Giaccherini, lively in the first period, saw his low shot held by Silvestri.
The Italian keeper then produced a choice save to kee United in the tie on 69 minutes when former Leeds loan man Connor Wickham profited from Cooper’s error to find Fletcher, whose point-blank effort was turned away superbly.
Gomez soon shot at Silvestri as the hosts sought a reassuring second to kill off any vestiges of a Leeds comeback.
A half-chance at the far post saw Montenegro blast the ball over after Antenucci’s cross found its way to him before Fletcher’s ordinary day continued when he fired wide at the other end.
Sunderland had chances to seal it late on with Fletcher seeing a shot deflected wide for a corner before Wickham’s header was saved and the hosts were nearly punished at the death when Cooper’s header cannoned off the post from Murphy’s cross.
Sunderland: Vergini; Vergini, Coates, O’Shea, van Aanholt; Bridcutt; Alvarez (Wickham 45), Rodwell (Larsson 37), Gomez, Giaccherini (Johnson 73); Fletcher. Substitutes not used: Stryjek, Buckley, Beadling, Robson.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Berardi, Cooper, Del Fabro, C Taylor; Murphy, Austin; Sloth, Adryan (Sharp 62), Montenegro (Doukara 85); Antenucci. Substitutes not used: S Taylor, Thompson, Dawson, Killock, Phillips.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).