Leeds United: Bielsa praises character shown by players in shock win at Manchester City
Marcelo Bielsa believes Leeds United's memorable victory over Premier leaders Manchester City highlighted the team's character.
The Whites overcame the controversial sending off of skipper Liam Cooper to win 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium despite playing with 10 men for more than 45 minutes.
Two goals from Stuart Dallas clinched the three points that see United now officially safe from relegation and looking to a possible top half finish on their first season back in the top flight.
It was a display based more on grit and determination than the Whites' usual flair and attacking instinct and head coach Bielsa was full of praise for the efforts of his players.
He said: "We think the result the team obtained was deserved because of the character, the personality, effort, the fortitude from a mental point of view and a physical point of view.
"It's a little bit strange to say it would have been fair for City to win but we deserved to win.
"I would like to explain the reason I believe we deserved to win was due to the belief of the players that they could do it.
"It took a lot of concentration, a lot of adaptations to situations where we were at a disadvantage because the opponents players, all of them, can unbalance,"
Bielsa went on: "If they have the ball for so much time even more so. And if the final pass they give close to our area it's even more difficult. It was an exercise of defensive adaptation and capacity."
"Inside the spirit of the team is the desire to attack when the situation allowed for it,"
The United boss highlighted wingers Helder Costa and Raphinha for their impact in the game as well as the defenders and was delighted for Dallas, who emphasised how important a player he has now become for this Leeds side.
"It gives me great happiness for him (Dallas) because he's a player whose game is based on a lot of generosity," added Bielsa.
."He's a player who helps all his teammates to recover the ball and not lose it. The goal gives a lot of shine to whoever manages to score it.
"For him to have scored two is normally an anomaly, it's deserved, it's competent, it's good.
"This year has allowed Dallas to show a part of himself that we didn't know he had."
For Leeds it was a game of firsts as they had not beaten any of the supposed big six clubs since returning to the Premier, had not previously won on this ground and became the first team to win at the Etihad while playing for more than a half with 10 men.
For Bielsa it was also his first win as a coach against a team managed by Pep Guardiola, although he refused to take credit.
He said: “That Leeds beat Man City doesn’t mean I imposed myself over their manager.
“Guardiola is the manager of the team Leeds beat but I don’t consider anything on my part.
“I do think value belongs to the players for winning a difficult game.”
Leeds were forced back for long periods of the game, but largely restricted the best team in the country to efforts from outside the box and although the final tally of 29 shots to two showed the dominance the home team had at times it did not tell the full tale.
The Whites did have several other opportunities they did not make the most of with Raphinha foiled by home keeper Ederson when clean through and the Brazilian winger also being hacked down by Fernandinho when racing through again.
The City player was lucky to only receive a yellow card for his offence, something that could not be said for captain Cooper, who was red carded after VAR intervened following his challenge on Gabriel Jesus at the end of the first half.
He clearly won the ball, but his follow through was somewhat harshly deemed to have been reckless and the Whites were forced into their rearguard action for the rest of the game as a result.
The game was somewhat ruined as a spectacle, but it brought the best out of Leeds defensively as they left their opponents looking frustrated at the end.
Raheem Sterling missed the best chance for City in the opening half before United took a surprise lead when they broke forward with purpose and good work by Costa and Patrick Bamford set up Dallas to score in off the post with a shot from the edge of the box.
After the break Oleksandr Zinchenko was denied by a full-length save from Illan Meslier, while Bernardo Silva had a shot inside the area deflected wide, John Stones headed narrowly wide and Ilkay Gundogan shot over.
But Leeds' 10 men held on until the 76th minute when Silva found space in the area then found Ferran Torres, who shot low into the net.
The expected onslaught did not come, however, in the closing stages and it was United who clinched victory at the start of added time as Ezgjan Alioski's through ball proved perfect for Dallas to race through and slot the ball under Ederson.
This most unexpected of wins took Leeds to 45 points and they are now in ninth, 19 points ahead of third from bottom Fulham, who only have six games left..
Manchester City 1
(Dallas 42, 90+1)
City:Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Ake (Gundogan 58), Mendy (Foden 74); Fernandinho; Silva, Zinchenko; Torres, Jesus, Sterling.
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper (sent-off 45), Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha (Shackleton 90+5), Dallas, Roberts (Koch), Costa; Bamford (Struijk 45+3).
Referee: Andre Marriner