Leeds United ended with 10 men as their promotion hopes took a big dent with a home defeat in their huge match with rivals Sheffield United.
In front of an expectant Elland Road crowd of over 37,000 the Whites had enough chances to have taken all three points, but fell to a single Chris Basham goal on 71 minutes and had goalkeeper Kiko Casilla sent-off for a professional foul near the end.
While never hitting the heights of their performance against West Brom in their previous home match, United were dominant for large periods against a Blades side that was set up defensively in a bid to frustrate.
They did what they set out to do, but were helped by some wasteful finishing that saw Leeds miss some decent opportunities in both halves.
The first miss came on seven minutes when Pablo Hernandez went on a good run and pulled the ball back for Patrick Bamford, but the striker saw his shot deflected wide.
Jack Harrison then volleyed over from six yards out from a Mateusz Klich cross.
The visitors were fortunate to stay with 11 players on the pitch when George Baldock’s two-footed lunge on Pontus Jansson was only punished with a yellow card.
They also drew a sigh of relief when Bamford sent an angled volley over following a fine pass by Hernandez.
A better chance followed on 22 minutes, but Tyler Roberts headed wide from Ezgjan Alioski’s cross.
A further good opportunity was squandered as Luke Ayling was put away by Hernandez and from his low pull back Klich miskicked when well placed on the edge of the box then Alioski sent a shot over.
The visitors finally managed a meaningful effort just before half-time with some dangerous corners, one of which saw David McGoldrick head over.
Into the second half a push on Harrison in the box went unpunished and Kalvin Phillips sent a long range shot over.
Oliver Norwood missed a good chance for the Blades as he shot over when found in space on the edge of the area.
Leeds fans were beginning to suspect it was not their day as Klich’s pull back found Roberts in the box and his shot beat keeper Dean Henderson only to smack against the post.
Billy Sharp was a little fortunate to get away with only a yellow card after appearing to hit Pontus Jansson in the face with his forearm and frustrations were growing in the home ranks.
Former Leeds player Sharp played the key role in the winning goal as he latched onto a defensive mistake by Liam Cooper to play in Chris Basham who calmly beat Casilla after being unmarked.
Leeds looked for a response only to miss another golden opportunity as Jansson somehow fired wide from inside the six-yard box.
However, just as they were getting a head of steam up for a big finish another mistake by Cooper on half-way saw Sharp latch onto the ball and he wes brought down by Casilla outside the area. There were defenders aiming to cover, but referee David Coote had the red card in his hand well before he reached the Whites keeper.
With all their substitutes used Jansson went in goal, but he did not have a save to make as the Blades were happy to see out the six minutes of added time to complete their big win.
Head coach Marcelo Bielsa was understandably disappointed with the result.
He said: “I don’t want to underestimate the victory of the opponent, but if you analyse the game we cannot be satisfied.
“What happened today happened many times in past games.
“We had three times more chances to score than the opponent, but they scored the goal.
“Our first half-hour was very good. We conceded the last 10 minutes of the first half and we had less quality in the second half.
“Nobody could say it was crucial result because there are still 24 points at stake.”
Bielsa felt the red card for keeper Casilla was harsh.
He added: “I don’t usually comment on the actions of the referee, but I think it should be taken into account the help Kiko had from the other players.
“It has to be the last man to be a red card.”
Leeds United 0
Sheffield United 1
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Casilla (sent-off 90), Ayling (Dallas 76), Jansson, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Hernandez, Klich (Clarke 76), Roberts, Harrison (Douglas 57), Bamford.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Craine, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Basham (Lundstram 90+2), Fleck, Norwood, McGoldrick (Dowell 82), Sharp.
Referee: David Coote