Marcelo Bielsa refuses to have a go at official as his woeful FA Cup run continues - but VAR shocker leaves bitter taste
Leeds United were on the wrong end of another poor decision in London when a West Ham goal was allowed to stand by VAR referee Peter Bankes despite a clear offside – but Marcelo Bielsa again refused to offer criticism of the official after the FA Cup third round tie at the London Stadium.
Controversy never seems to be far away when the Whites travel to the capital and this time it played a big part in them suffering yet another third round exit as their severely weakened team lost 2-0.
Bielsa continued his run of losing every FA Cup tie he has been in charge for and in truth Leeds rarely looked like beating the Hammers, but they were not helped by Bankes seemingly making rules up on the spot for West Ham' s crucial opening goal in the first half.
Jarrod Bowen was offside as he ran towards the ball after Nicola Vlasic's shot had been deflected and challenged goalkeeper Illan Meslier, who could only knock the ball loose for Manuel Lanzini to score.
Somehow Bowen was not deemed to be interfering with play and the goal was shockingly allowed to stand, prompting many to question the validity of VAR once more.
Despite the obvious miscarriage of justice, Whites head coach Bielsa, as in the past, declined to have a go at the official.
He said: "It's a decision I prefer to accept what the referee's say, not because I don't have an opinion, I think it's a collaboration us coaches should make, to accept the decisions to the referees even if they jeopardise us.
"If not we enter terrain where we can't offer what we want to offer, which is good football. There is a lot of arguments to say that the position I'm taking is incorrect, I consider them and I revise them but adding and subtracting I think the decision to accept their decisions helps their job and the spectacle.
“There are some conclusions that say the ones that demand the least would seem that it facilitates for the referee in case of doubts that they go towards the one that complains the least. I think the argument I'm offering is superior."
There was criticism elsewhere, however, with chairman Andrew Radrizzani saying alongside a picture of the “goal” that “it was every clear to everyone” and injured captain Liam Cooper saying it had been a “shambles”.
Heaven knows what Victor Orta said at the match, but it left a bitter taste and it was not as if the task was not hard enough with Leeds starting without 10 first team regulars, no recognised striker and two teenage players in Lewis Bate and Leo Hjelde making their first team debuts.
Another 19-year-old Sam Greenwood made his first start also before coming off at half-time while Bielsa chose to rest Raphinha, Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw, although all three were pressed into action in the second half.
Despite a weak look to the Whites line-up against a Hammers side not far off full strength they held their own for much of the contest only to have moves break down in the final third and could have snatched something from the game had Dan James been sharper with two chances that came his way in the second half.
Bielsa had no argument with the result, however, and was disappointed with his side's inability to make more of their possession.
He explained: "I think it corresponded that they won the game, they created more danger than we did.
"They had balls with which to attack in worse situations than we did and they created more danger than us.
“In the second half there were things we improved, we pressed a bit better, we played in the opponents' half more time but in the end we should have created more chances than the ones we created. It would have been possible to prevent a lot of the chances they created."
Leeds were expected to have Patrick Bamford back up front, but was absent because of another knock he has picked up and looks set to be out for the remaining games this month.
Bielsa added: "Bamford recovered from the injury he sustained against Brentford and he was going to play. He was going to be the starter at centre-forward and in the training during the week he suffered an injury that is not identifiable.
"It's a knock underneath his hip and it's still not clear what's the reason behind it. The only thing that's for sure is that it's not a muscular problem because his muscles are healthy."
Little happened in the early exchanges as there was an initial lack of intensity for a cup match and it was comfortable for Leeds, aside from one moment when Luke Ayling cleared the ball near his own line to deny Bowen.
United's play was neat without being penetrating until youngster Bate showed some good footwork to create some space, but his shot from the edge of the box was easily saved by Alphonse Areola.
Michail Antonio was proving a handful as he led the home attack and came close with a shot from just outside the box before Greenwood had his first opportunity at the other end only to send his shot high and wide.
West Ham took the lead with their controversial goal on 34 minutes and went in one up.
Bielsa responded by bringing on Raphinha and Dallas to add more experience to his line-up and the Whites did improve, although their opponents were more content now to sit back to try to catch Bielsa's men on the break.
They almost did that when Anotonio fed Bowen, but Meslier came to the rescue with a fine save.
Despte the hosts having several free-kick opportunities close to the edge of the Leeds box due to phantom fouls awarded by referee Stuart Attwell they were unable to make anything of them and there were few real further openings until the last 20 minutes when the game finally livened up and both could have netted.
Leeds could have equalised when Mateusz Klich's volley across the face of goal was first missed by James then fell to Jack Jack Harrison, who fired over from close range.
By this stage they had lost Junior Firpo to the after effects of a head injury he suffered in the opening half with Dallas moving to left back to play in his third position within 20 minutes of coming on.
Ryan Fredericks went past Dallas to create a good opportunity for the hosts, but chose to shoot and sent the ball wide from an angle when a pull back would have been the better option.
It was head in hands time for the Whites when Harrison fired in a superb low cross, but James showed why he is not the answer at the moment at centre-forward as he failed to react quick enough as the ball went past home defender Craig Dawson and the ball bounced wide off him.
Leeds were finishing in the ascendancy with sub Crysencio Summerville looking lively on the right wing and Raphinha getting time at number 10. They forced late pressure, but were caught on the break in added time as the Hammers defended a cross into the box well and produced a lightning break with Antonio playing Bowen in to score.
Leeds kicked off and that was it, the final whistle bringing an end to another cup disappointment.
West Ham United 2
(Lanzini 34, Bowen 90+3)
Leeds United 0
Sunday, January 9, 2022
FA Cup round three
West Ham: Areola; Fredericks, Dawson, Diop, Johnson; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Vlasic (Masuaku 88), Lanzini (Fornals 76); Antonio (Yarmolenko 90+5).
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling (Forshaw 60), Llorente, Hjelde (Summerville 78), Firpo (Drameh 69); Koch; Harrison, Bate (Dallas 45), Klich, James; Greenwood (Raphinha 45).
Referee: Stuart Attwell