Leeds United have the advantage in their Championship play-off semi-final after a controversial first-leg win over Derby County at Pride Park.
Kemar Roofe’s 15th goal of the season was the difference between the teams, the forward producing an excellent first-time finish from Jack Harrison’s curling pass from the left wing.
Derby were incensed when assistant referee Eddie Smart persuaded referee Craig Pawson to overturn his award of a penalty to the Rams with 14 minutes to go, after Harrison had been adjudged to have fouled Jayden Bogle.
The home side also felt Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich could have been sent off after he appeared to headbutt Fikayo Tomori in the chest as he got to his feet after going down under a challenge. He was given a yellow card over the incident.
The second leg is at Elland Road on Wednesday, and no side has ever made the Championship play-off final having lost at home in the first leg.
Leeds dominated possession and deserved their win, while Derby failed to have an effort on target in the match.
After a cagey first half, Roofe’s opener brought the tie to life and he could have doubled the lead soon after, but his shot from the edge of the box was palmed away by a full-stretch Kelle Roos.
Pablo Hernandez should have got Leeds’ second but, with the goal gaping, the Spaniard completely missed the ball from six yards out after Jamie Shackleton’s cutback.
More controversy between Derby and Leeds
The overturned penalty, as well as Klich’s confrontation with Tomori, were the latest controversies between these two sides this season.
Having initially given the spot kick, referee Pawson changed his mind after discussions with his fellow official and awarded a free-kick to Leeds.
Although Bogle did place an arm on Harrison, replays were inconclusive as to whether that was enough to put him off balance and cause the Leeds man to bring his opponent down.
This was the first match since United’s 2-0 win over Derby at Elland Road in January was overshadowed by the ‘spygate’ affair and Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s admission that he had sent a member of his staff to “spy” on the Rams training the day before the game.
Bielsa later admitted that he had sent staff to watch “the training sessions of all opponents”, with Leeds fined £200,000 by the EFL for their part in the incident, which Bielsa says he paid himself.
Kemar Roofe – the scourge of Derby County
Derby fans needed no reminding of Roofe’s talents.
The 26-year-old scored twice against the Rams in a 4-1 thrashing at Pride Park back in August, and the former Oxford man got the opener in Leeds’ 2-0 win over Derby at Elland Road on 11 January.
Prior to his first-leg winner, that was the last time the talented attacker had found the net for United – although he missed six weeks of the season with a knee injury between mid-February and the start of April.
Penalty ‘was a close call’ – post-match reaction
Derby County manager Frank Lampard:
“I think it was a close call for the penalty, but for it to be overruled by a linesman who is further away than the referee is incredible.
“The ref is the boss and he made the decision. If it is going to change then surely it has to be because there is something clear and obviously wrong and there wasn’t.
“Contact is minimal, but there is a foul there and I don’t understand why it was changed.
“We won’t get it back now but I would like to speak to the officials to understand their decision-making process.
“We were more positive in the second half and created chances, but we need to be better on the ball and be more confident on Wednesday (in the second leg).
“If we go out then I want us to play how we have been playing recently. They will put us under pressure but we have to stay confident.”
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa:
“We always play to win and I think it was a deserved win. I am really pleased with the performance.
“Apart from the first minutes of the first half and then 10 or 15 minutes in the second half, when we dominated the ball, we defended well when we had to defend well and we attacked well when we had to attack.
“I did not have a clear view of the penalty. We are very far away from the action and have many players in front of us, so I can’t give an opinion.”
“The Champions League games this week are a warning of what could happen. A 1-0 lead is not enough to be comfortable going into the second leg.
“It (the win) is an advantage, but we still have 90 minutes to play.”