Leeds United: Five wins on spin but no difference in performance level says Marcelo Bielsa

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With five straight wins, five clean sheets and a top of the table position regained, it has been a great few weeks for Leeds United.

Now they have to finish the job off and head coach Marcelo Bielsa is taking nothing for granted with 27 points still to play for.

A hard earned, but fully deserved 2-0 victory over West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town took the Whites back to the top of the table, ahead of West Brom, and with fellow promotion contenders Fulham only drawing and Nottingham Forest losing they now hold a seven-point advantage over third place, with nine matches left to play.

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A brilliant third minute volley by Luke Ayling and Patrick Bamford's return to scoring early in the second half proved enough to beat the Terriers and Bielsa was pleased with the performance, although guarded in believing there was still a lot of hard work to be done to secure promotion from the Championship.

Luke Ayling turns to celebrate his goal for Leeds United against Huddersfield Town. Picture: Jonathan GawthorpeLuke Ayling turns to celebrate his goal for Leeds United against Huddersfield Town. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Luke Ayling turns to celebrate his goal for Leeds United against Huddersfield Town. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

He said: "It was a match where we defended well. We didn't concede real chances, just the one in the first half.

"Offensively we could have scored more goals. But anyway the team did very well in attack as well."

Bielsa does not believe there has been much difference in the performance level from his team on their current five match winning run to the one that struggled for a spell before that.

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He explained: "I don't realise a difference in performance. I think in both periods the attack has attacked well and defended well, but there are moments when you defend well, but concede goals and there are moments where you attack well and don't score. The team had a similar average in both periods, but now we score easier and avoid the opponent scoring.

"The performance is similar, but what happens in either box is different.

"A few months ago we had 11 points difference and lost it. What we have to do is wait until the end of the season and see what happens. But of course we value the win.

"We have 27 points left, we know how many points we going to need and we have nine matches left. Of course there is anxiety until we get what we are looking for."

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Leeds beat Huddersfield without key midfielder Kalvin Phillips, but the head coach is hopeful he will be back for next weekend's game at Cardiff.

Bielsa said: "He had a lot of possibility to play, but yesterday finally we decided for him not to play. It is not serious.

"The last match he had a limit but he tolerated the pain well. He felt more uncomfortable, but we hope to have him back next week.

"I think if Ben White played 10/15 more matches in this position he would have the same impact as Kalvin Phillips. The positions of centre-half and defensive midfield are close to each other."

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Bielsa was pleased to see his striker, Bamford, find the target again after not scoring in his previous seven games.

He added: "I am happy for him. Centre-forwards need to score and he couldn't do it for a long time. He scored a typical goal from a centre-forward."

Huddersfield manager Danny Cowling was full of praise for the Leeds team and Bielsa in particular.

He said: "We actually started the game well and then conceded an outstanding goal.

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When you come into a game as an underdog, I've won lots of matches like that, you probably can't afford to concede a goal of that quality. It's a great strike.

"For 30 minutes we were able to compete with Leeds, we pressed high up the field and we were able to get 12 turnovers and disturb their rhythm. We had Trevoh's chance, you probably have to take that if you want to get anything at Leeds. We didn't.

"Leeds play an aggressive system. You have to try to hurt them in the space behind, because they suffocate you in a one v one moment, they're all over you. We probably didn't play out of pressure as well as we'd have liked.

"But we saw probably the best team in the league playing at the top of their game, they were relentless at times.

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"I've managed against Arsenal, Everton twice and Burnley and that was right up there in terms of an opponents' performance. They're our local rivals, our supporters are proud people, we're a proud club but sometimes you have to credit the opponent. They were outstanding.

"The intensity and physical quality they played with, they had so much purpose. I actually really enjoyed it in a sadistic way!

"If you are going to get out managed by someone then let it be a genius!

"When Leeds go up I would love to see how the Premier League teams cope with the way they play. They are the best team in the league by far."

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Leeds flew out of the blocks to grab a hold of the game so early with Jack Harrison's cross being spectacularly volleyed into the net off the woodwork by Ayling, who made one of his customary breaks forward from right-back.

It was not so easy for the Whites for the rest of the first half as Huddersfield, with midfielder Lewis O'Brien impressive, worked hard to chase the hosts down and stop them from playing through midfield.

Town only managed one shot in the half, however, as Trevoh Chalobah got in behind the United defence only to see his shot saved by young keeper Illan Meslier.

They had other promising positions, but Leeds protected their rookie keeper well and began to get a hold of the game towards half-time.

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A threatening break for a Town corner led to Helder Costa being played in, but instead of shooting he chose to try and set up Bamford and played the ball too long to blow the chance.

The next home attack almost brought a second goal when Ayling picked out Harrison coming in from the opposite flank and the winger's volley flashed just wide.

Ben White, playing midfield with Phillips injured, sent a header from a free-kick inches wide and the half ended 1-0 with no further goalmouth action.

United made a strong start to the second half with Harrison found unmarked in the box only for his header to be directed straight at Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl.

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Bamford got in behind the Terriers defence a minute later only for his shot also to be too close to Lossl.

Leeds did get their second goal in the 52nd minute as White's header from a free-kick was well saved by Lossl, but Bamford followed up to score from close range and end his goal drought.

As at Hull the previous week the second goal was the cue for some brilliant football from the Whites and they were unlucky not to add to their lead.

Harrison's angled shot flew wide, Pablo Hernandez saw a shot well blocked after he went on a mazy dribble into the area and Harrison's superb run and turn ended with his strike coming back off the crossbar.

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O'Brien sliced a shot wide from the edge of the area as Town pulled themselves back together and Emile Smith-Rowe's shot was fumbled by Meslier before the home defence cleared.

But Huddersfield were held at arms length for the remainder and it could have been 3-0 when Costa was picked out by Hernandez in the area only to fail to shoot first time with his eventual effort being blocked.

Town had a shout for a penalty turned down in injury-time as Richard Stearman went down in the area after a corner was not cleared, but in the main it was comfortable in the second half for a Leeds team that has regained its confidence after a tricky spell.

Match facts

(Ayling 3, Bamford 52)

Huddersfield Town 0


Attendance: 36,514

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Dallas; White; Costa, Klich (Shackleton 83), Hernandez, Harrison (Alioski 90+3); Bamford (Roberts 78).

Huddersfield: Lossl; Simpson, Stearman, Schindler, Toffolo; Chalobah, O'Brien; Willock (Pritchard 67), Smith-Rowe (Bacuna 72), Grant; Campbell (Mounie 61).

Referee: Oliver Langford.