New head coach Paul Heckingbottom got off to a losing start as two goals from former Elland Road striker Billy Sharp condemned Leeds United to a 2-1 defeat against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Sharp took his career goals tally past 200 as he struck with a spectacular volley early on and a second half penalty conceded by Leeds skipper for the day Eunan O’Kane.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga levelled for Leeds in the second half and they had more efforts on goal than their hosts only to fail to bring any points back home.
The Whites could feel hard done to by the decisions and showed plenty of spirit despite having four players unavailable through suspension, but their run of failure in 2018 continued.
It could not have been a worse start for the new regime as the Blades - as they did in the game at Elland Road earlier in the season - went ahead inside two minutes.
And as in the earlier game it was former Leeds striker Billy Sharp who did the damage, this time with a spectacular overhead volley from 15 yards out after a Mark Duffy cross had not been cleared by O’Kane.
It could have been two on nine minutes when Sharp got on the end of another cross only to head wide under pressure from Pontus Jansson six yards out.
Ezgjan Alioski tried to reply for the Whites with a 25-yard shot that went well wide.
Alioski brought the first save out of home keeper Jamal Blackman on 14 minutes with an overhead kick from 20 yards out.
Leeds were settling to their task and Lasogga went close with a well struck shot from 20 yards out.
A minute later shouts for a penalty fell on deaf ears when Alioski was brought down by Enda Stevens right on the edge of the box.
The hosts then had a good spell as Billy Sharp’s low cross was tipped away by Felix Wiedwald with Leon Clarke lurking and Mark Duffy fired a 20 yard shot just wide.
Alioski headed wide after getting on the end of Roofe’s overhead into the box. At the other end, Duffy’s 25-yard shot was straight at Wiedwald.
Lee Evans was lucky to stay on the field after a mistimed, studs up lunge on Alioski. He was yellow carded, but Leeds players have been sent off for less in recent weeks.
From the free-kick after Evans’ foul, however, substitute Pablo Hernandez - on for the dazed Kemar Roofe - sent a delicious cross into the box and Jansson met it with his head only for Blackman to make a stunning flying save.
Leeds started the second half as they ended the first with a great attack, but this time equalised as Hernandez won the ball on the left wing and crossed into the box where Lasogga sent a superb header past Blackman into the bottom corner of the net.
Hernandez continued to make an impression as he fired in a low shot that took a deflection to flash just wide.
But the Blades came on strong for a spell again with Duffy shooting over twice and the penalty that brought them their winner.
Leeds switched off from a free-kick and John Fleck was brought down in the area by O’Kane. Up stepped Sharp again to score his second goal from the spot and the Whites were chasing the game again.
Leon Clarke missed a good chance for the hosts, but Leeds put in a big finish.
Hernandez shot over after doing well to win the ball inside the area then referee Andrew Madley missed a chance to even up his penalty decisions as Enda Stevens flicked his arm out at a bouncing ball and appeared to make contract. No decision came and Sheffield could themselves lucky.
Lasogga headed wide under pressure as the game entered injury-time and Laurens De Bock was no more than a yard wide a well struck shot from 25 yards out. But the home team survived to do the double over Leeds.
Head coach Heckingbottom felt his side should have got something out of the game.
He said: “I would like to think we deserved something.
“The goal caught us cold at the start. They played forward in the first half and we didn’t play forward enough.
“We were much better in the second half. We played on the front foot, with much more energy, played in their half of the pitch and ultimately created more chances.
“The Leeds fans clapped us off as they will do when they see as they will when they see a team put in a performance and energy. But that’s a bare minimum.”
Sheffield United 2
(Sharp 2, 73, pen)
Leeds United 1
Saturday, February 10, 2018
Sky Bet Championship
Sheffield United: Blackman, Baldock, Basham, O’Connell, Stearman, Stevens, Evans (Lundstram), Fleck, Duffy (Leonard 77), Sharp (Holmes 89), Clarke.
Leeds: Wiedwald, Dallas, Pennington, Jansson, De Bock, Forshaw, Phillips (Ekuban 78), O’Kane, Alioski (Sacko 75), Roofe (Hernandez), Lasogga.
Referee: Andrew Madley.