Bielsa: Leeds United did not deserve to have unbeaten run ended at Fulham

Head coach Marcelo Bielsa remained defiant despite seeing the end of Leeds United's 11-match unbeaten run as they lost to promotion rivals Fulham.

The Whites recovered from losing key player Pablo Hernandez to injury and seeing a harsh penalty given against them in the first seven minutes.

Patrick Bamford chases down Fulham's Tim Ream.

Patrick Bamford chases down Fulham's Tim Ream.

They were level nine minutes into the second half through Patrick Bamford only for their Achilles heel to show up again as they let in a second goal from a corner to lose 2-1.

But Bielsa felt Leeds had been the better team and he went further by saying that he did not think any team had outplayed his team in the first half of the season.

He said: "We played against one of the more powerful opponents.

"We have defended well. They scored from a corner and from a penalty. They had just one more chance, we had seven or eight chances to win the match. We defended very well because we played against great attackers.

"The only thing that is a shame, about our team, after we scored we conceded a presence in our half that was linked more with what we allowed them to do than what they did themselves. It was a short moment. It was important because it was the moment to win the match. If you analyse the full match, it is a little detail.

"Honestly, I don't want to not give value to what the opponent did but I didn't see the opponents' attackers unbalance the game.

"If you analyse the statistics to describe the level of one team, it is clear that Fulham is the best team in the Championship. Today I think that the things they created, they couldn't score with that. They had the possibility to counter attack, something they do well and they didn't damage us or create chances with that.

"Honestly I have to say our defence was good. In attack, even if it was a tough match, we have eight, nine, 10 chances to unbalance the match."

Bielsa added: "I don't think we have played a match where the opponent played better than us. But imagine which kind of conclusion we would have today if we had five more points or three more points.

"We have missed points that we deserved to win. But important teams get what they deserve. When they don't get what they deserve, there are some things to improve."

Bielsa explained that playmaker Hernandez had to leave the field in the second minute due to a hamstring injury and was unlikely to play against Preston on Boxing Day.

While Leeds were still rearranging their team - with Ezgjan Alioski coming on as substitute - they went one down as Ben White was judged to have pushed Bobby Reid in the area and although Kiko Casilla got a hand to Aleksandar Mitrovic's penalty he could not keep it out of the goal.

It looked a bad decision from referee Tom Robinson as the Fulham player was already going to ground before any contact was made and that contact was minimal anyway.

United attempted to shrug off their early double disappointment as Stuart Dallas forced home keeper Marek Rodak into his first save and Mateusz Klich hit the woodwork with a good strike.

There were more yellow cards than shots for the rest of the half, though, with frustration clear for the Whites as they were behind at the interval.

Bielsa made a half-time change with striker Eddie Nketiah brought on to replace winger Helder Costa, but it was Fulham who had the first chance of the second period with Mitrovic putting the ball into the net from a cross from a free-kick only for an offside flag to rule his effort out.

United equalised when Nketiah made his first impact after being well found by fellow sub Alioski. His angled shot was saved low down by Rodak, but the keeper only succeeded in diverting the ball straight to Bamford, who had the simple task to tap in.

Alioski came close to putting United ahead when his header was saved by Rodak. But Casilla was then forced into a fine flying save to tip Ivan Cavaleiro's shot from distance over.
Fulham did make it 2-1, however, as a corner was not dealt with and fell to Josh Onomah in the area, who curled a shot into the net.

Leeds showed plenty of fight to get back in the game, but it was not their day as Alioski hit a shot over and Liam Cooper was denied on his return to the side after injury as his header from a corner was cleared off the line by Mitrovic.

The result meant their advantage over third-placed Fulham was down to nine points.

Match facts
Fulham 2
(Mitrovic 7, pen, Onomah 69)
Leeds United 1
(Bamford 54)
Championship
Attendance: 18,878
Fulham: Rodak, Christie, Mawson, Ream, Bryan, Onomah, Reed (Johansen 88), Cavaleiro (Knockaert 90), Cairney, Reid (Sessegnon 90), Mitrovic.
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling (Stevens 72), White, Cooper, Dallas, Phillips, Klich, Harrison, Costa (Nketiah 45), Hernandez (Alioski 2), Bamford.
Referee: Tom Robinson