Leeds United edged past Fulham via a 6-5 penalty shoot-out win to secure their place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, with summer signing Rodrigo Muniz missing the decisive spot-kick for the Cottagers.
The Brazilian had been unable to capitalise on multiple chances during normal time and saw his penalty saved by Illan Meslier at the end of a long shoot-out.
Neither side were able to break the deadlock in a 90 minutes in which the goalkeepers kept out everything that came their way but were rarely significantly tested.
Injuries forced Marcelo Bielsa to pick a side that mixed youth and experience, while Marco Silva named a completely changed side for the visit of the Whites with 11 players given an audition by the Portuguese coach.
Among those was Muniz, who opened his account for Fulham on Saturday after coming off the bench against Reading, and had two chances to add to his tally inside the first 10 minutes.
First, the Brazilian found himself in space at the back post but was unable to direct his header on target, and then he saw a powerful effort beaten away by Illan Meslier after his spin had left stand-in centre-back Kalvin Phillips flatfooted.
Leeds were not without chances of their own in the opening exchanges, however, with Tyler Roberts forcing a save out of Marek Rodak after a breakaway and then Phillips rising highest to meet a corner.
Dan James’ pace started to cause Fulham problems down the left flank as the half wore on with a lot being asked of Cyrus Christie in what was the right-back’s first appearance for the west London club since the 2019/20 Championship play-off final.
Leeds’ next chance did come down the left after 36 minutes but it fell to Rodrigo, who was unable to strike the ball cleanly after a slick one-two allowed him to burst into the Fulham box.
The Whites forward went close again five minutes before the break but Rodak got down well to keep out his low, curling free-kick.
A free-kick at the other end gave Fulham their best chance of the half minutes before the referee blew his whistle but Neeskens Kebano’s effort was palmed away by Meslier.
The game went 47 minutes without a goal in the first half but the electric pace of James nearly gave us a breakthrough just over sixty seconds into the second period, the summer signing latched on a loose ball ahead of Christie and surged toward the Fulham box before teeing up Rodrigo but Michael Hector’s sliding block kept scores level.
The introduction of Adam Forshaw after 55 minutes did little to open up what was becoming a cagey affair and the game began to drift, with Muniz’s header from a deep free-kick the only real moment of note as we past the hour mark and entered the final 20 minutes.
With the game there to be won, attacking changes were made by both managers – Bielsa introducing young attackers Joe Gelhardt and Stuart McKinstry while Silva opted for Bobby De Cordova Reid and Ivan Cavaleiro.
But it was one of the men given a chance to prove himself from the start that looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck, as Josh Onomah let fly from 30 yards and forced a finger-tip save from Meslier.
The introduction of defender Tosin Adarabioyo in place of injured midfielder Harrison Reed did little to open up the game in the final 10 minutes and with the scores level we began to look destined for a penalty shoot-out.
Five minutes before the end De Cordova Reid’s looping cross looked to give Muniz a chance to grab the headlines but 19-year-old Charlie Cresswell, who impressed throughout, did enough to put him off and the header was sent over the top.
The young defender had a chance to have the final say up the other end in stoppage time but his header from a free-kick swung in from the right-flank bounced wide of the post.
That began a flurry of chances with Muniz hammering a volley over the top before Adarabioyo’s block denied Junior Firpo from close range.
Penalties is always a cruel way to settle a tie and it was Fulham that came up short, with misses from Muniz, Joe Bryan and Onomah proving costly.
FULL TIME: Fulham (5) 0-0 (6) Leeds United