A decade ago this week, disappointment for Leeds United was a last-minute Barcelona equaliser at Elland Road in the Champions League. Last night it was a hammering by Cardiff City in the Championship that exposed the defensive frailties of a side whose bright start to life in the second tier is fading fast after a fourth defeat in five.
"Championship, you're having a laugh," sang the gloating Cardiff fans, but they were the only ones smiling. Leeds had no answer to the pace and purpose of a Cardiff team who climbed level with the Championship leaders QPR with this fifth straight victory, courtesy of goals from Jay Bothroyd (two), Michael Chopra and Lee Naylor.
Although Alex Bruce sent an early header wide from a corner, it was Cardiff who made the more composed start, Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy catching the eye with some clever touches. It took them 20 minutes to trouble Kasper Schmeichel, Seyi Olofinjana driving a low shot at the Dane, but they were in front two minutes later.
Bruce, brought in to replace the error-prone Richard Naylor, let Tom Heaton's kick bounce over his head in the expectation Schmeichel would gather on the edge of the box. Instead the pair got in each other's way, Bruce kicking the ball as Schmeichel sought to grasp it, whereupon it ran through the goalkeeper's legs, allowing Bothroyd to pounce with a shot that beat Bruce's desperate attempt to cover.
Leeds sought to respond with Davide Somma playing in Luciano Becchio on the right of the box, but his near-post effort was straight at Heaton. Yet Cardiff remained on top, Bellamy and Bothroyd both going close before the break.
The visitors tightened their grip with Chopra's marginally offside goal in the 52nd minute. He latched on to Mark Hudson's pass before finding the far corner via Schmeichel's gloves with a shot from the edge of the area.
Four minutes later it was three as Bothroyd buried Chris Burke's low cross. Things got even worse for Leeds when Bellamy laid a ball back to Naylor and the left-back hit a 20-yard drive into the right-hand corner. Leeds were denied a consolation when Becchio's header was ruled offside, but the gloom had already descended on Elland Road.
Leeds (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Connolly, Bruce, Collins, McCartney; Snodgrass, Howson, Faye (Clayton 81), Johnson (Gradel 64); Somma (Nuñez 67), Becchio. Substitutes not used Brown, Kilkenny, Hughes, Bromby.
Cardiff (4-4-2): Heaton; McNaughton, Hudson, Gyepes, Naylor; Burke, Whittingham, Olofinjana, Bellamy; Chopra (Keogh 73), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used Marshall, Rae, McPhail, Koumas, Blake, Wildig.
Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).Reuse content