Marcelo Bielsa finds it hard to explain Leeds United throwing away three-goal lead against Cardiff
Marcelo Bielsa was forced to pick the bones out of a crazy day for his Leeds United team as the side with the best defensive record in the Championship managed to throw away a three-goal lead to draw against Cardiff City.
The Whites were two up inside eight minutes through Helder Costa and Patrick Bamford and increased their lead seven minutes into the second half with a Bamford penalty.
Cardiff hit back with two goals from free-kicks not dealt with and somehow managed to grab a point with a late Robert Glatzel goal after they had defender Sean Morrison sent-off for a lunge on Eddie Nketiah.
It was all too reminiscent of last season's collapses against Derby and Wigan at Elland Road and saw Leeds knocked off the top of the table with West Brom coming from behind to beat Birmingham.
It also saw United's seven-match winning streak ended, although they gained a point on Fulham, who started in third place and who play Leeds next.
Head coach Bielsa had to find words to describe the team's big giveaway.
He said: "It is difficult to explain the result.
"The only explanation we can try would be try to value how we conceded the three goals, the opponent arrived to our box with set pieces or long throw ins or crosses, corners.
“Of course we knew that, because we know this in the Championship is an important fact. The other point is we had a three-goal difference, we scored three times and missed 10 chances and after we had another 10 situations that should have finished with more danger.
“But when you score three goals you cannot criticise why we didn't score five goals.
“We had moments in the match, we played the best football so far but this is something different in this analysis, the question is how, with a difference of three goals with an opponent that didn't surprise us with their resources?
"In the past I saw the team nervous at the end of game. But that wasn't what happened, the team was calm and was in control. But clearly we received three goals and we cannot explain.”
Bielsa characteristically blamed himself for his team's ultimate failure to deal with balls into the box and long throw-ins.
He added: "The manager knows the characteristics of the opponent, we demand the same kind of response from our side so the manager is engaged with this situation.
"Everyone knew before the game this was the big resource of the opponent. If one team had 30 chances to score or 25 and the opponent with throw-ins, corners, set-pieces, with less elaboration, less building, they draw the match, we cannot compare both things. What we have to do is think that we knew what was going to happen and we couldn't resolve it. So I clearly feel that the preparation for this match wasn't enough.”
Leeds made a lightning start and scored from a corner in the sixth minute - a Cardiff corner that was!
As they had done against Hull a few days earlier the Whites were quick to break from their own box and Pablo Hernandez freed Costa to run on and place his shot past Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge.
Within two minutes it was 2-0 as Stuart Dallas produced a great cross and Bamford chested the ball down before instantly smashing a shot into the top corner.
It looked like a big win was on the cards when United flooded forward and had many more chances.
Dallas chipped a shot over and got forward from left-back again soon after to play a one-two on the edge of the box only to send his effort wide.
Hernandez could not get any power behind a head to give Etheridge an easy save then Gaetano Berardi sent a near post header over following a corner in the 15th minute.
Jack Harrison went on a dangerous run at the Cardiff back line , but saw his goalbound shot deflected over.
Leeds should have had a penalty when Costa ran at left-back Joe Bennett and was brought down with replays showing that referee Tony Harrington was wrong to signal a corner instead of a spot kick.
Harrison went down in the area soon after, although this looked more like a stumble with the Whites player.
Bamford sent a free-kick from the edge of the box over before Cardiff finally managed an effort of their own on the half-hour, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing shooting wide from the edge of the area.
It was back to United on top again with Luke Ayling's shot being deflected over and Kalvin Phillips sending a volley well over from the edge of the box.
But the visitors did get a foothold in the game and had three efforts in three minutes, Morrison headed over and Joe Ralls shot over following Will Vaulks long throws that were not dealt with while Danny Ward hit an effort over after stretching to meet Mendez-Laing's pull back.
A great run by Costa showed that the hosts were still dangerous, but the move ended with Hernandez's shot being easily saved.
The action-packed first half ended with another Cardiff shot over by Ward from another long throw and after their shaky start they were in the game now.
A big start to the second half should have seen United home and dry, however. Ayling shot over when well placed within seconds of the restart following Costa's pull back then the home team did make 3-0 with Bamford's penalty after he had gone down under a challenge by Etheridge near the bye-line.
It was much less clear cut than the previous shout with Costa and maybe Leeds were a little lucky, but there was nothing lucky about Bamford's spot kick as he put away confidently.
It was almost four soon after when Mateusz Klich produced a delightful chip that was well saved by Etheridge.
However, totally against the run of play Cardiff got a lifeline as Kiko Casilla's weak punch after he came a long way out of his goal to deal with a cross was punished by a clever instant finish by Lee Tomlin.
Leeds did not look worried as they responded with some good possession play and created another chance when Klich's shot was deflected wide. Hernandez went on a great run, but could only send his shot just over
It was something of a shock as the visitors made it 3-2 on 82 minutes with their second shot on target, Morrison heading home after a free-kick had been played wide and caught the home defence out.
Morrison turned from hero to villain as he clattered into United sub Nketiah and was given a straight red card.
Within seconds United had another opportunity with Klich seeing his shot saved low down, but against the 10 men they contrived to blow the lead as young substitute Pascal Struijk – sent on to add some height to the home defence – was slow to react to a ball in behind him and Cardiff sub Glatzel sneaked in to shoot past Casilla to make it 3-3.
Even then United could have won it as Hernandez blazed over and Nketiah's header was parried by Etheridge to Ben White who could not put the rebound in from a yard out.
Leeds United 3
(Costa 6, Bamford 8, 52, pen)
Cardiff City 3
(Tomlin 60, Morrison 82, Glatzel 88)
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, White, Berardi (Struijk 84), Dallas, Phillips, Costa, Klich, Hernandez, Harrison (Alioski 81), Bamford (Nketiah 78).
Cardiff: Etheridge, Peltier, Morrison (sent-off 85), Flint (Nelson 41), Bennett, Vaulks (Whyte 61), Pack, Ralls, Tomlin, Mendez-Laing, Ward (Glatzel 74).
Referee: Tony Harrington