Match report: Leeds United 0 Blackburn Rovers 3

Sol Bamba.
Sol Bamba.
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Blackburn Rovers took advantage of Rodolph Austin’s red card to earn three points at Elland Road.

The Leeds United midfielder was dismissed for a clash with Ben Marshall five minutes before half-time and second-half goals from Tom Cairney, Jordan Rhodes and Jay Spearing earned Rovers a 3-0 win.

Blackburn piled on the pressure after Austin’s exit and Cairney broke the deadlock with an 18-yard volley on 62 minutes.

Further efforts from Rhodes and Spearing ruled out any chance of a fightback, rounding off a turbulent week for Leeds.

The build-up to today’s clash was dominated by the suspension of Leeds’ assistant boss Steve Thompson on Thursday morning and doubts about the involvement of striker Mirco Antenucci.

Head coach Neil Redfearn came under pressure from his board to leave Antenucci out due to a clause in the Italian’s contract which will earn him an extra year on his deal if he scores 12 goals this season.

Antenucci, who has 10 so far, was named on the bench and appeared as a second-half substitute but he could not rescue 10-man United from defeat.

Leeds held a minute’s silence before kick-off in memory of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, the United supporters killed in Istanbul 15 years ago this weekend.

The tribute was beautifully observed and Leeds followed it with a quick and spirited start but Blackburn produced the first chance of note when Rhodes struck the woodwork.

Rhodes read Tom Cairney’s 13th-minute pass in behind United’s defence but his shot deflected off the body of Sol Bamba and smashed off the face of Marco Silvestri’s crossbar.

That moment was a break in steady pressure from Leeds but Redfearn’s side struggle to seriously test debutant Blackburn goalkeeper David Raya.

The 19-year-old was left alone as United tried to find clinical final balls and Rhodes missed another good chance by lashing Bamba’s misplaced header over Silvestri’s net from four yards out.

Leeds forced their first opportunity on 25 minutes as Austin headed Charlie Taylor’s hanging cross wide and Gaetano Berardi drew an easy save from Raya with a low effort.

Raya, however, showed excellent reactions to keep the ball out one-handed when Sam Byram’s volley struck Matthew Kilgallon and flew at him in the 36th minute but United’s afternoon took a turn for the worse with Austin’s red card four minutes later.

The midfielder was dismissed by referee Gary Sutton on the advice of one of his linesman, for an offence which few inside the ground had spotted.

Replays showed a Austin pushing Marshall with a raised hand as Leeds prepared to take a corner and the Jamaican disappeared down the tunnel after protesting bitterly to Sutton.

Blackburn were always likely to dominate the second half and Rudy Gestede almost opened the scoring three minutes after the break, drawing a fine parry from Silvestri from close range. Bamba then intervened to stop Rhodes turning home another Cairney delivery.

But Rovers forced the breakthrough when Giuseppe Bellusci dived into a tackle on Gestede and left the forward free to break clear.

Gestede’s strike deflected to Cairney who sized up the ball 18 yards out and whipped a skillful volley past Silvestri.

Rhodes’ diving header from Chris Brown’s dinked cross - coming moments after Marshall had rattled a post - put the result beyond doubt in the 69th minute and Spearing could not miss when more poor defending from Bellusci saw Marshall present the ex-Liverpool midfielder with a tap-in nine minutes from time.

Rhodes went within inches of adding a fourth in injury-time but his left-footed strike came back off the frame of Silvestri’s goal.

Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton (Antenucci 66), Bamba, Bellusci, Berardi (Cooper 66), Murphy, Austin, Mowatt, C Taylor, Byram, Morison (Sharp 86). Subs (not used): S Taylor, Phillips, Dawson, Doukara.

Blackburn Rovers: Raya, Henley (P Taylor 59), Baptiste, Kilgallon, Olsson, Cairney, Spearing, Williamson, Marshall, Rhodes, Gestede (Brown 65 (O’Sullivan 81)). Subs (not used): Steele, Spurr, Lenihan, Evans.

Marcus Antonsson celebrates his goal at Sheffield Wednesday last season.

Leeds United: On-loan striker Marcus Antonsson letting his goals do the talking at Blackburn