Leeds United faced Cardiff City under the lights of Elland Road on Wednesday evening, in this Emirates FA Cup Third Round replay.
The two teams had faced off earlier in the month but a 2-2 draw meant they had to do it all over again to see who would progress.
In the earlier encounter, the Whites had had scored in the final few seconds to remain in the competition. This time, Jesse Marsch’s side scored in the first few seconds of the match which set them on a path to ensuring progressing to the fourth round.
Just 30 seconds in an all but a small section inside Elland Road were on their feet to applaud a stunning opening goal. Rodrigo played the ball over the top of the defence to Willy Gnonto, who struck a first time scissor volley in midair which flew into the top corner.
After then seeing attacks exchanged at either end, Jack Harrison and Gnonto had further chances to extend the lead, whilst Mark Harris - who had found the net earlier in the month for the Bluebirds - forced a save from Illan Meslier at the other end.
However, as the game approached 15 minutes remaining in the 1st half, Marsch’s side stepped up the pace again and hit a quick-fire double to stretch their advantage.
A nice team move up the pitch involving Gnonto saw Harrison pick the ball up. He looked up and found Rodrigo with a stunning cross-field pass. The Spaniard controlled, took his time and rounded Jan Alnwick in the Cardiff goal before slotting home into the bottom corner.
Just two minutes later, it was three! This one started around the United penalty area and one-touch interplay created a quick break up the pitch. Again it was Harrison who turned provider, this time feeding Gnonto who impressively finished again, firing home his second of the game.
Cardiff thought they had a way back into the game before the interval. A corner into the United area wasn’t dealt with and Curtis Nelson powered a header into the back of the net. However, VAR intervened and disallowed the goal for an offside.
HALF TIME: United 3-0 Cardiff City
Patrick Bamford and Brenden Aaronson were introduced for the second half at Elland Road. Rodrigo and Tyler Adams were replaced after playing key parts in the opening 45 minutes.
Shortly into the half, Max Wober was also replaced by Luke Ayling.
Looking to find his hat-trick after another thoroughly impressive display, Gnonto had the first real chance, but struck his effort into the side netting this time as his side looked to add to their lead.
That was to be the last action for the forward in the game and he went off to standing ovation, replaced by Joe Gelhardt - who quickly made his impact on the game as well.
Bamford had been denied by a good save from Alnwick, but the Cardiff keeper wasn’t going to be able to do anything to deny the striker on his return to action on home turf for much longer.
Ayling created an excellent chance for our number nine with a delightful ball in behind the defence and Bamford took it wonderfully, opening up his body and curling home into the far corner to extend the lead to four.
It became five shortly after, with Gelhardt now the creator for Bamford to get his second. A clever ball in behind the defence allowed the striker to collect it again, and picking his spot, finish brilliantly again to extend the advantage.
In the final 10 minutes, the away side pulled one back for their efforts. A ball into the box from the right wing bounced up nicely for second half substitute Callum Robinson to head home at close range, which he did with ease.
Then in added time, the Bluebirds got another. A penalty was awarded following a VAR check which adjudged Marc Roca to have handled in the box. Robinson stepped up and got his second of the game to reduce the deficit further.
That was to be that though and the whistle went shortly after, confirming the end of an entertaining cup tie - sending the Whites through to the fourth round where they will face either Boreham Wood or Accrington Stanley.
Leeds: Meslier (GK), Firpo, Roca, Harrison (Sinisterra 79’), Adams (Aaronson 45’), Llorente, Rodrigo (C) (Bamford 45’), Kristensen, Gnonto (Gelhardt 67’), Wober (Ayling 57’), Greenwood.
Subs not used: Robles (GK), Perkins, Gyabi, Struijk.
Cardiff: Alnwick (GK), Baga, Etete (Davies 66’) Ojo (Whyte 88’), Sang, Nelson (C), Sawyers, Simpson, Colwill (Wintle 45’), Harris (Kipre 45’), Rinomhota (Robinson 64’).
Subs not used: Allsop (GK), O’Dowda, Philogene, NG.
Venue: Elland Road
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Booked: Gnonto (Leeds) Sang (Cardiff)