Ashley takes second chance to fire Salford to shootout victory over Leeds | Carabao Cup

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A thriller of a cup tie ended with Salford reaching the Carabao Cup third round with a 9-8 victory on penalties, Ossama Ashley proving the hero. The midfielder’s first effort was saved by Karl Darlow to his left but the referee, Oliver Langford, correctly ruled Leeds’ goalkeeper was yards off his line. Take two and Ashley, signed from Colchester this summer, made no mistake, this time blazing home to Darlow’s left, this coming after Jamie Shackleton had hit the 19th kick off Alex Cairns’ bar.

Cue pandemonium and a pitch invasion as Salford progressed to round three for the first time having recovered after Pascal Struijk bundled in a free-kick from the substitute Sam Greenwood to cancel out Matt Smith’s opening-half strike.

This all unfolded before the watching Gary Neville, a Salford co-owner who was on co-commentary duty for Sky Sports, the former Manchester United captain ending his evening jubilant and posing for selfies.

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His manager, Neil Wood, was asked if United are Salford’s dream draw in the third round. “I’m from Stretford and support them so it would be [great],” he said. “I haven’t spoken to Neville yet. They don’t come often these nights so you have to enjoy them. I was proud of our resilience.”

So Wood should be. As expected his League Two side had soaked up relentless pressure from a Leeds side 46 places above them in the pyramid and despite the disappointment of the late equaliser were of stern enough stuff to capitalise on spot-kicks to seal glory at the second chance on what was a pulsating night.

Following a pre-tie soundtrack of the Killers and New Order, Leeds dominated throughout, mainly via the lively Wilfried Gnonto, but still wandered off at the break trailing.

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Gnonto’s cocktail of pace and trickery was easy to identify as the potent threat, supremely hard to defend. Salford attacked to negate this, launching raids down their flanks. Ryan Watson pinged in a ball that Leeds scrambled to repel, after Luke Bolton – from open play and Stevie Mallan at a dead ball – had earlier done the same from the opposite side.

Salford’s players celebrate their victory
Salford’s players celebrate after reaching the third round for the first time. Photograph: Paul Thompson/ProSports/Shutterstock

As soon as Leeds again hogged possession a pass was sprayed out to Gnonto who was tormenting Liam Shephard: the right-back did not dare get too close as the attacker shimmied into Salford’s area and was relieved when the pass was misplaced.

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Daniel Farke, who made six changes from the weekend 4-3 victory over Ipswich, had his XI drilled to press from the front so when he spied his forward lazily failing this demand the German instantly yelled: “What are you doing?” at Joe Gelhardt. It was a rare lapse as Leeds were here to play – and to win the right to do so, as a crashing challenge from the 17-year-old Archie Gray indicated.

But Wood’s side now turned the contest: in came a delivery from the left-back, Luke Garbutt, and Smith headed in, leaving Leeds feeling sucker-punched.

The home crowd partied and this remained their mood until Langford blew for the break – Struijk having previously slide-tackled Bolton as he went to pull the trigger before Cairns, at the other end, dived left to save Crysencio Summerville’s low effort.

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Wood’s move for the second half was to replace the overrun Shephard with Connor McLennan. Leeds’ riposte to losing was inevitably to feed Gnonto who, on dancing for an umpteenth time into the area, was felled in what appeared a fair shout for a penalty but Langford was unmoved. Farke expressed unhappiness about this decision afterwards.

Leeds were a blur in blue. Their attitude could not be faulted but better execution was required near goal. Salford, in chilly late August air, knew the upset was on and presented a red wall. There was craft, too, when Callum Hendry dipped a shoulder, broke the Leeds backline and pinged in a cross. The ball was worked to Mallan, who for a moment believed a dipping 20-yard attempt would double the lead but this ranged wide of Darlow’s left post.

Salford survived a scare when the unmarked Struijk had a free header but still there was no leveller as Cairns clutched the ball. But the question was how long could they remain intact?

A Struijk deflected shot meant a corner. Summerville fired the ball in and Salford hooked it clear. Gnonto, switching to the right, probed and Wood’s men still refused to buckle. Finally their captain clutched a lifeline. But it was in vain.

Of his decisive penalty Ashley said: “I had to keep a cool head and slot it through.”

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