These are uncertain times for Leeds United but the Championship club produced an accomplished performance to belie their mid-table position in the second tier and send Everton back down the M62 with the FA Cup as their only realistic ambition of silverware this season.
GFH Capital, potential investors, were once again present at Elland Road to watch Aidan White and Rodolph Austin secure the club's place in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup with a goal each side of half-time and, while Sylvain Distin's 81st-minute header ensured a nervy finish, this was a deserved victory.
On a sopping West Yorkshire evening Leeds, despite a mounting injury list, proved they were more than a match for their top-flight opponents. The manager, Neil Warnock, said: "I think that's as good a performance as I've ever had in the cup, because of the circumstances. It was like going back in time, with the weather chucking it down, the fans singing, the officials were great, everything was.
"We were better on the night. We deserved the win. They did have a few chances and we did too. We had our centre-halves in bandage and covered in blood and we had the likes of [Michael] Brown, [Danny] Pugh and [Jamie] Ashdown. They've hardly played but they fitted in lovely. I'm pleased for them all."
The last time these sides met in a Premier League encounter in 2004, Wayne Rooney and James Milner were on target. It was another academy product who broke the deadlock on Tuesday night, White capitalising on sloppy defending to dance through a sea of blue statues before curling a sumptuous effort past Jan Mucha.
Leeds almost doubled their advantage in first-half injury time. El-Hadji Diouf, derided by the travelling supporters, hung up a cross to the far post where Luciano Becchio was waiting, only for Mucha to parry his powerful header before Steven Naismith hacked off the line.
This was not the same Everton side that have started their league campaign so well. David Moyes made six changes to his team although there were places for Marouane Fellaini, Victor Anichebe and Kevin Mirallas, who combined effectively during Saturday's 3-0 win at Swansea City.
"We were not very good in the first half," said Moyes. "We started terribly, gave them the initiative and lost the game in the opening 20 minutes." On his squad players, he added: "These boys are in the squad and have to be able to show they can come in and play. If you don't use them, what's the point in having them?"
The Everton manager replaced Francisco Junior and Magaye Gueye with Steven Pienaar and Phil Neville at the interval. However, despite an injection of urgency Naismith spurned a glorious chance by sending a far-post header wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.
Leeds went 2-0 ahead with 20 minutes remaining. A corner down the left was played to Pugh outside the area and, with the Everton defence asleep again, he fired the ball into a crowded box, Austin getting the crucial touch to divert it past Mucha. Distin pulled one back for the visitors with a looping header from Pienaar's free-kick but, despite a late penalty appeal as Jason Pearce clambered over the back of Anichebe, Leeds held on. Pearce, with eight stitches in his head after a first-half collision, epitomised their endeavour. Everton were left questioning their own.
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