LEEDS UNITED fell to a second consecutive Championship defeat for the first time since August and September as Cardiff City claimed a fully deserved 2-0 win at Elland Road.
Without the services of Pontus Jansson who missed the game through illness, a below par Leeds were undone in the 53rd minute when Craig Noone’s free-kick found skipper Sean Morrison who easily headed past Rob Green.
A sloppy Whites were undone for the second time in the 71st minute when Ronaldo Vieira was robbed in possession, allowing Aron Gunnarson to walk through the Whites defence before squaring to Kenneth Zohore who was left with a sitter.
And United’s miserable afternoon took another turn for the worse in the 88th minute when captain Liam Bridcutt was sent off for receiving a second yellow card.
Leeds began on the front foot and after Jazz Richards scythed down Stuart Dallas on the edge of the area, Pablo Hernandez hit the top of the wall with his free-kick.
As part of a slow beginning, Cardiff then briefly threatened when Kenneth Zahore’s terrific reverse pass almost picked out Aron Gunnarsson but Rob Green rushed off his line to clear.
Former Whites captain Sol Bamba then made a hash of an attempted clearance, much to the amusement of the Elland Road crowd.
Hernandez then fired well wide in the 18th minute and after Kyle Bartley survived an attemped back pass that almost went wrong from a Cardiff corner, United’s Dallas saw a powerful effort blocked from the edge of the box.
But Cardiff then squandered the game’s best chance yet when Craig Noone’s free-kick presented Greg Halford with a free header that he placed straight at Green.
At the other end, Leeds continued to pepper the Cardiff net with shots off target while Luke Ayling entered the book for a foul on Kadeem Harris.
Chris Wood then saw a 20-yard free kick saved by Allan McGregor before Leeds eventually scrambled clear a dangerous cross from Harris.
But as Whites frustrations began to grow, captain Liam Bridcutt was booked for dissent in the 44th minute.
United then survived a Cardiff counter attack which brought a dull first half to a close.
As expected, Leeds began the second half on the attack with Hernandez almost opening up Cardiff with a 40-yard pass to Dallas whose cross looked destined to provide Wood with a tap in before Cardiff cleared.
Liam Cooper then headed a decent chance over from a 50th-minute corner.
But it was Cardiff who made the breakthrough when a free-kick conceded by Gaetano Berardi gave Noone the chance to deliver a perfect ball for Morrison who easily beat Green with his header.
Cardiff then went close to doubling their lead soon after when Noone’s volley was saved by Green.
As the game passed the hour mark, Whites head coach Garry Monk brought on Hadi Sacko for Dallas, after which Cardiff’s Halford was booked for time-wasting.
But the visitors then squandered a golden opportunity to bag a second in the 65th minute when Bartley cleared a Zohore header off the line before Green saved a follow-up attempt from Joe Ralls.
Leeds hit back with Hernandez and Sacko combining to feed Wood who fired wide.
But a sloppy Leeds were then undone for the second time in the 71st minute when Vieira was robbed in possession, allowing Aron Gunnarson to walk through the Whites defence before squaring to Zohore who was left with a sitter.
Already, even with 19 minutes remaining, it looked like game over and Bartley and then sub Kemar Roofe twice misfired for Leeds.
But Cardiff should have gone 3-0 up in the 82nd minute when Harris cut inside before shooting high and wide.
And United’s dreadful afternoon was summed up in the 86th minute when Bridcutt was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on Matthew Connolly.
Roofe almost pulled a goal back for Leeds in injury time but immediately afterwards Berardi was lucky to avoid a yellow card for a late foul.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Cooper, Bartley, Berardi, Bridcutt, Vieira (Doukara 76), Dallas (Sacko 61), Hernandez, Pedraza (Roofe 76), Wood. Subs not used: Silvestri, Coyle, Barrow, O’Kane, Roofe, Doukara.
Cardiff City: McGregor, Connolly, Richards, Bamba, Morrison, Halford, Ralls, Gunnarsson, Noone, K. Harris, Zohore. Subs not used: Murphy, John, Bennett, Whittingham, Hoilett, Healey, Lambert.
Referee: James Linnington.