New Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen has seen his side make an impressive start to their Championship campaign this season.
The Whites are currently top of the table and have made similar headway in the Carabao Cup too, making it into the hat for the Fourth Round draw of the competition after seeing off Burnley 5-3 on penalties following a dramatic 2-2 draw at Turf Moor.
Hadi Sacko and Pablo Hernandez were the names on United’s scoresheet, who saw their goals cancelled out by former Leeds man Chris Wood, and a stunning free-kick from Irish international Robbie Brady.
Sacko, introduced in the 60th minute in place of Manchester United loanee Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, and Hernandez- introduced in the 79th minute in place of Pawel Cibicki- was impressive performers on the night for the Whites as they sought to turn the screw late on against their Premier League opponents.
Until then it had been all Burnley pressure that the visitors were forced to withstand, and it didn’t change immediately after the Frenchman’s introduction, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Ashley Barnes, and Phil Bardsley all continuing to waste chances for the Clarets.
Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan was forced to make a save when Gudmundsson teed-up for Ashley Westwood to hit a curling strike from the edge of the box, and two minutes later the Whites, having stood firm amidst relentless pressure, found themselves in front.
Pablo Hernandez, now introduced, who thanks to a fortunate ricochet down the Burnley right found himself in possession, rode a challenge with his first touch of the ball and found himself in a pocket of space in the centre of his half towards the centre-circle. Looking up at the right flank, he played a superb pass into Sacko, who’d made an excellent run behind Burnley’s former Leeds defender Charlie Taylor.
With his first notable contribution, Sacko latched onto the ball with an inch-perfect first touch, and before the recovering James Tarkowski could intervene, Sacko powered a right-footed effort through the legs of goalkeeper Nick Pope to hand Leeds an unlikely lead and send the travelling fans behind the goal into raptures with ten minutes of the match remaining.
Hernandez almost doubled Leeds’ advantage five minutes later, but his arrowed effort flew just over Pope’s crossbar, before Burnley saw another chance go begging with one minute of normal time remaining, Lonergan tipping another Gudmundsson effort out for a corner.
Burnley found a route back into the game late on from the resulting spot-kick, Gaetano Berardi was adjudged to have fouled Kevin Long as the ball entered the box, and former Leeds forward Chris Wood made no mistake from the spot to level affairs against his old club.
But there was still time for more late drama, Hernandez was played in down the left by Stuart Dallas, and his cross was floated in towards Kemar Roofe. The referee adjudged that Roofe was being held by Burnley skipper James Tarkowski and pointed to the spot.
Hernandez took responsibility for the spot-kick, and calmly sent Pope the wrong way and stroked the ball home into the bottom right corner, capping off his cameo with a goal and handing Leeds the advantage with four minutes of stoppage time gone.
But Leeds were to be denied victory in normal time. Burnley won a free-kick in a dangerous position roughly 25 yards from goal in the sixth minute of added time, and Robbie Brady stepped up to curl the ball left-footed into the top left corner of the goal beyond Lonergan to send the game into extra-time.
As both sides tired, clear-cut chances were few and far between in the extra half an hour, but Hernandez would miss a huge opportunity in the final minute of extra-time, firing over from outside the box in what proved to be Leeds’ last chance.
The Spaniard made no mistake in the resulting penalty shootout, however.
Stepping up second for Leeds after Pierre-Miche Lasogga had converted for the Whites, and Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes made no mistake for Burnley in the new ABBA penalty shootout format, Hernandez stroked the ball into the bottom right corner right-footed, just as he had with his previous penalty in normal time to level the shootout at 2-2.
James Tarkowski would see his crucial fourth penalty for Burnley beaten away in the bottom right corner by Lonergan, before Ezgjan Alioski and Stuart Dallas converted to hand Leeds a 5-3 penalty shootout victory and put themselves in the hat for Round Four.
Hernandez has been a regular in the Championship for Leeds thus far this season, with Sacko finding himself in and out of the side, and their impressive cameo performances at Turf Moor, along with that of the starting eleven which Christiansen had shaken up from Leeds’ defeat at Millwall over the weekend, indicates that the Whites are a side with a deal of strength in depth.
Sitting at the summit of the Championship and looking like a promotion contender early in the season, and still going strong in the Carabao Cup having now taken a Premier League scalp, they could be one of the sides to watch from the second-tier who will feature in the Round of 16.