Leeds United dramatically escaped another shock FA Cup third round defeat at Cardiff City as Sonny Perkins netted an injury-time equalizer.
Cardiff, 20th in the league and the league’s top scorer, scored twice in seven first-half minutes with goals from Jaden Philogene and Sheyi Ojo.
Booed at half-time, Leeds responded well as substitute Rodrigo headed towards him.
Cardiff’s Joel Bagan was sent off for the handball but Rodrigo had his resulting penalty saved by Jak Alnwick.
Then, just when the home side seemed set for another famous victory over Leeds – 21 years after doing so at the same stage against the then Premier League leaders – Perkins scored from close range to break the late resistance from Cardiff.
It was a cruel end to the game for Cardiff, who looked set for a first win in eight games that would have offered a blessed respite from their league struggles.
As for Leeds, Perkins’ late leveling is a lifeline for manager Jesse Marsch, whose side have now gone six games without a win in all competitions but have at least avoided an embarrassing defeat here which would have significantly increased the pressure on the American.
That game brought back memories of Cardiff’s famous 2002 FA Cup triumph, then third tier, against an expensively assembled Leeds side who were then top of the Premier League.
Since that historic result 21 years ago, Cardiff had won 14 of the sides’ next 22 meetings but, given their struggles in the Championship this season, confidence was lacking in the Welsh capital.
Leeds were on a winless run – five games in all competitions – and Marsch’s men were also concerned about their recent miserable FA Cup record, losing in the third round in each of the past five seasons, including shock defeats against Newport County and City of Crawley.
Marsch said he had spoken to the subject with general manager Angus Kinnear, and Leeds fans were clearly in the mood for a cup run, selling their 6,000 allowance and creating a ruckus that drowned out the home crowd for decades. long periods.
The Leeds players looked similarly motivated as they controlled the opening rallies, with Darko Gyabi impressing in midfield with a first shot going wide and a weaving run that ended with an effort well blocked by Jack Simpson.
But despite the visitors’ early control, it was Cardiff who took the lead against the run of play. Tom Sang freed Mark Harris with a fine through ball and, after his shot was saved by Joel Robles, Harris launched Isaac Davies. His shot was also blocked but the ball fell on Philogene, who fired from close range.
After scoring just 20 goals in 26 league appearances this season, the league’s worst scorers have netted twice in seven minutes against their Premier League opponents.
The second was an altogether classier affair, with Andy Rinomhota’s delightful slick pass eyeing Leeds centre-back Diego Llorente’s header before reaching Ojo, who twisted the ball before smartly completing the corner.
Leeds were booed at half-time and their fans’ anger had the desired effect after the restart as their side put Cardiff under constant pressure with a host of chances.
First, Pascal Struijk headed a few inches wide before recently substituted top scorer Rodrigo rose to meet Sam Greenwood’s cross and headed for the net despite a touch from Cardiff keeper Jak Alnwik.
Rodrigo fired another shot before playing a starring role in the game’s decisive moment.
The penalty was as blatant as it comes – Bagan diving like a goalkeeper to fend off Junior Firpo’s shot with his hand – but Rodrigo’s weak kick was saved by Alnwick.
Cardiff fans celebrated the stoppage with newfound belief that their side were close to claiming another FA Cup scalp, but it was Leeds’ rambunctious traveling contingent who had the last laugh as Perkins helped Firpo’s flick into the net to spark wild celebrations behind that goal and force a replay.