A much-changed Leeds side marked their first game since gaining promotion to the Premier League and winning the Championship title by coming from behind to win at Derby.
The first half lacked intensity following a pre-match guard of honour from the home players though Leeds had the better of things, Tyler Roberts forcing a smart save from Kelle Roos and Ian Poveda correctly having a goal ruled out for offside.
Derby led when Chris Martin’s shot from 10 yards deflected in off Luke Ayling but less than two minutes later Pablo Hernandez guided home an equaliser for the visitors from outside the box.
And it was to be Leeds’ day – Jamie Shackleton slotted his first professional goal from a fine Roberts pass to put them ahead before Matt Clarke hacked a clearance into his own net from Ezgjan Alioski’s dangerous cross.
After the full-time whistle Marcelo Bielsa’s players celebrated their achievements together pitchside at a behind-closed-doors Pride Park, and will lift their first trophy for 28 years at an empty Elland Road on Wednesday when they host Charlton.
For Phillip Cocu’s Rams, whose play-off hopes were ended after defeat at Cardiff on Tuesday, it was a fourth consecutive Championship defeat for the first time since 2011.
They had the opportunity to rain on Leeds’ parade but Jason Knight was thwarted by keeper Kiko Casilla when Ayling’s slip put him through on goal.
Leeds revel in being champions
When Leeds battled past Barnsley on Thursday they probably could not have believed that they would be promoted – let alone as champions – by the time they next took to the field.
That result at Elland Road meant it was only a matter of time before their Premier League place was sealed but after 16 years of instability and near misses, no-one associated with the club could rest easy until it was official.
The outpouring of emotion when West Brom lost to Huddersfield on Friday and, to a slightly lesser extent, when Brentford’s defeat by Stoke made Leeds title-winners, was understandably huge.
And the celebrations may have contributed to Bielsa – famed for favouring continuity in team selection – making wholesale changes at Pride Park.
It meant an end to Mateusz Klich’s 92-game streak of Championship starts and a first league game out of the side since December 2018 for Jack Harrison, as defensive midfielder Pascal Struijk and winger Poveda made their full debuts.
That, coupled with lengthy first-half stoppages for injuries to Derby’s Tom Lawrence and Leeds’ Gaetano Berardi, resulted in a sometimes disjointed game, but the Yorkshire club still had the better of things throughout and were good value for their victory.
Derby and Leeds rivalry goes on
Much of the pre-match talk was about whether Derby would give their opponents a guard of honour as they entered the pitch to congratulate them on their title success.
This gesture caused so much debate because of the intense rivalry between the sides over the past 18 months, sparked by ‘Spygate’ – when it came to light that a member of Leeds staff had been found watching Derby train from a public footpath.
Bielsa admitted he had sent the person to do it at the time. And then there was last season’s play-off semi-final between the clubs, when Leeds blew a two-goal aggregate lead in the second leg to lose 4-3 to Frank Lampard’s Rams.
But despite that animosity the Derby players – led by former Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney – lined up to applaud the visitors onto the pitch.
There were one or two jibes between the clubs on social media, with Leeds’ director of football Victor Orta dancing with binoculars after the match, but Derby owner Mel Morris’ show of respect – gifting a bottle of champagne to opposition officials – was well received.