ronaldo vieira said Leeds United had approached it as a must-win game after guiding Leeds to a highly impressive success at Ashton Gate.
United began in sixth in the table but on the slide after defeats at Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday were followed by a 1-0 setback at home to Reading.
But a recalled Vieira excelled in a new-look midfield as an early brace from Samu Saiz followed by a second-half header from Pierre-Michel Lasogga ended high-flying City’s 12-match unbeaten run.
The triumph allowed Leeds to jump back up to fourth as City slipped to sixth and Vieira said winning was the only option to get United back on track after their three-game slump.
“We just knew we had to win the game. We couldn’t go four games in a row losing if we wanted to be up there at the end of the season. We had a lot of meetings about Bristol and they’re a good team but I think we overlooked them and just tried to get the three points.”
Vieira started alongside Eunan O’Kane in central midfield as Kalvin Phillips fulfilled the No 10 role with Saiz and Gjanni Alioski playing on the wings behind lone striker Lasogga. The new-look system worked wonders as Phillips and Lasogga worked an opening for Saiz to slot home a deflected fourth-minute opener.
The Spaniard then doubled United’s advantage from close range 10 minutes later after a fine through ball from O’Kane to Alioski punctured City’s defence.
The lead was further extended seven minutes after the hour when Lasogga headed home a peach of a corner from Phillips to the near post.
The game ended with a flashpoint as United’s Gaetano Berardi and City’s Matty Taylor were both shown red cards after clashing in the 79th minute.
Berardi appeared to plant a head-butt on Taylor, who had confronted him after a challenge.
Leeds coach Thomas Christiansen said: “I went to the referee and asked if it was necessary to show the red card. He said it was clear. He told me that the other player came to him (Berardi), provoking him, but everyone has to control themselves in that situation.”
Bristol City: Fielding, Wright, Flint, Hegeler (Magnusson 68), Bryan, Leko (Taylor 57), Brownhill, Pack, O’Dowda, Reid, Woodrow (Diedhiou 57). Unused substitutes: Steele, Vyner, Kelly, Eliasson.
Leeds United: Lonergan, Ayling, Pennington, Cooper, Berardi, Phillips, O’Kane, Vieira, Alioski (Sacko 71), Saiz (Anita 83), Lasogga (Grot 89). Unused substitutes: Wiedwald, Jansson, Roofe, Hernandez.
Referee: O Langford. (West Midlands)