Preston North End 2 Leeds United 1: Illan Meslier's moment of madness costs visitors dearly

Nicknamed 'The Iceman', Illan Meslier's rush of blood cost Leeds United dearly in a damaging defeat at Preston North End.

The Leeds goalkeeper's cool head deserted him in a 53rd-minute flashpoint that gave out-of-form Preston the impetus they needed to take control of a contest that was going nowhere.

After claiming a cross, Meslier went head to head with Ben Whiteman before shoving Milutin Osmajic in the face.

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The Preston frontman fell to the ground and referee Josh Smith wasted no time in brandishing the red card to leave Leeds down to 10 men and wondering what had come over their number one.

United rallied and appeared to have earned a point when Pascal Struijk tucked away a late penalty, only for Liam Millar to crown a virtuoso performance with a stunning winner a minute from time.

Millar had laid on the opening goal for Alan Browne in the 57th minute with a pinpoint cross before Karl Darlow had even settled in for his first league shift for the club.

Meslier's red card was as needless as it was reckless and put Leeds back to square one in the battle for the top two in the Championship.

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Daniel Farke's stuttering side got back on track with a 4-0 rout of automatic promotion rivals Ipswich Town, setting up the opportunity to cut the deficit to four points, at least temporarily.

Illan Meslier is sent off for lashing out at Milutin Osmajic. (Photo: Tim Markland/PA Wire)Illan Meslier is sent off for lashing out at Milutin Osmajic. (Photo: Tim Markland/PA Wire)
Illan Meslier is sent off for lashing out at Milutin Osmajic. (Photo: Tim Markland/PA Wire)

Leeds remain undefeated at Elland Road but are prone to a wobble on the road, as evidenced by an insipid fourth away defeat of the campaign at Sunderland in their last outing on their travels.

If Farke thought United had turned a corner on Saturday, he was sadly mistaken.

Leeds were facing a Preston team with just one win in seven games and fresh memories of a 5-1 hammering by Watford in their last home match.

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Preston boss Ryan Lowe called for attitude and application in front of a full house at Deepdale and got his wish.

Alan Browne wheels away after nodding past Karl Darlow. (Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images)Alan Browne wheels away after nodding past Karl Darlow. (Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images)
Alan Browne wheels away after nodding past Karl Darlow. (Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images)

Leeds were forced to feed off scraps in a drab first half befitting a Boxing Day lunchtime kick-off.

If anything summed up United's afternoon, it was the sight of Ethan Ampadu and Crysencio Summerville laying next to each other after being clattered in quick succession.

There were only 16 minutes on the clock but Leeds knew they were in a game.

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The visitors failed to test home goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, even during their brighter spells when they pushed the hosts back.

Georginio Rutter lines up a shot. (Photo: Bruce Rollinson)Georginio Rutter lines up a shot. (Photo: Bruce Rollinson)
Georginio Rutter lines up a shot. (Photo: Bruce Rollinson)

Summerville sent in two dangerous free-kicks that came to nothing before Joel Piroe wasted a good opportunity with a weak finish and Dan James saw an effort blocked after good play down the left by Georginio Rutter.

Millar had a field day on the opposite flank for Preston up against rookie right-back Archie Gray.

The Liverpool youth product had the beating of the Leeds teenager from the start and the home side duly kept going back for more.

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Whiteman had a shot blocked after Millar got the better of Gray and the left winger had a go himself minutes later, his curling effort worrying Meslier momentarily before drifting wide.

Millar continued to try his luck, blazing a shot high into the Leeds fans behind the goal before forcing Meslier to tip over a goal-bound strike.

Meslier was called into action again when Browne's free-kick threatened to creep in at the near post.

After Ali McCann sent a shot over the bar for the hosts, Ampadu's deflected strike bounced harmlessly into the arms of Woodman in the last act of the opening 45 minutes.

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That was Leeds' only shot on target until Struijk sent Woodman the wrong way from the penalty spot following a foul by McCann on James.

United had to come from behind after conceding while the dust was still settling on the Meslier incident.

Millar sent in a brilliant cross from the left and Browne directed a header beyond Darlow, whose first job was to pick the ball out of his net.

Driven forward by Rutter, Leeds responded positively and sensed an unlikely comeback after taking advantage of anxiety in the home camp to equalise seven minutes from time.

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But Millar had the final word with a sublime curling finish into the top corner after leaving Gray in his wake.

As early Championship pacesetters Preston celebrated a win that reignited their play-off bid, Leeds were left to rue Meslier's moment of madness.

Preston North End: Woodman, Whiteman, Lindsay, Browne (Ledson 90), McCann, Hughes, Millar, Holmes (Frokjaer 84), Whatmough, Osmajic, Potts (Evans 72). Substitutes not used: Cornell, Storey, Cunningham, Best, Woodburn, Keane.

Leeds United: Meslier, Spence (Gnonto 68), Struijk, Rodon, Gray, Ampadu (Bamford 90), Kamara (Gruev 68), Summerville (Joseph 68), Piroe (Darlow 55), James, Rutter. Substitutes not used: Firpo, Cooper, Byram, Anthony.

Referee: Josh Smith (Lincolnshire).

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