LEEDS United suffered a damaging defeat at Sunderland as they lost ground in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League.

As they were going down 1-0 at the Stadium of Light, Ipswich Town snatched a late win at Watford to go top of the Championship with 51 points moving two points ahead of Leicester who are at home to Millwall tonight.

The third-placed Whites are now ten points adrift of the Tractor Boys with the season approaching the halfway mark.

The match-winning moment came 12 minutes from the end when teenager Jobe Bellingham, brother of Real Madrid and England star Jude, bravely headed in from close range as goalkeeper Illan Meslier came out to smother the ball.

It was enough to end United’s seven-game unbeaten run and was a triumph for interim coach Mike Dodds who followed up his maiden victory against West Brom with another big scalp.

Dodds got his tactics spot on. His men were sent out to nullify Leeds’ much-heralded attack and defended superbly throughout. 

Their attitude was typified near the end as United were pushing hard for an equaliser when Craig Hume cleared a Joel Piroe effort off the line.

It was hard to make a case for Leeds to deserve a point for while Sunderland defended strongly, they also created the better chances with minimum possession. 

York-born pair Jack Clarke and Niall Huggins, both former Leeds players, were a major threat down United’s right although it took the Black Cats half an hour to show their attacking claws.

It looked like business as usual as Leeds started well, Crysencio Summerville having a free-kick tipped over by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson. 

That was one of the few times Leeds threatened as they were kept at arms’ length for the bulk of the game.

On the half hour, Jenson Seelt wheeled away to celebrate a goal only to see Meslier claw away the Dutch defender’s header at full stretch. 

That was the start of a good Sunderland spell and Bellingham should have done better with a free header as United’s zonal marking went awry.

Leeds’ set-piece deliveries were generally poor in contrast to the threatening deliveries provided by Alex Pritchard, the elder statesman in a young Sunderland side. 

Leeds’ best chance in the second half came shortly before Bellingham’s goal when Summerville escaped on the break but could only place his shot into Patterson’s midriff.

Despite the defeat, Leeds boss Daniel Farke felt he could not be too critical of his players.

“Congratulations to Sunderland for a great defensive effort,” he said. “In general, I am struggling to criticise my lads too much.

“We dominated this game in many periods. We did not find the cutting edge today. 

“We created so many chances in the past, but the final pass tonight we were not tidy or sharp enough.
“They tried to park the bus and counter attack. Whenever we shot they had bodies to block. It was difficult because they were sitting so deep.”