Marcelo Bielsa relieved and pleased with positive Leeds United
Marcelo Bielsa was pleased with his players as a relieved Leeds United were able to finally celebrate a Premier League victory.
The 1-0 success against Watford came courtesy of an 18th minute goal by the fit again Diego Llorente, but could and should have been by a much bigger margin as a failure to finish opportunities was the only disappointing aspect for the Whites head coach.
Bielsa said: “There were a lot of positive things. It was a fair, deserved win.
“We didn’t make errors, didn’t allow counter attacks or let their forwards stand out.
“In the first hour of play we created a lot of danger, in the last 30 minutes perhaps a little bit less, but it was a deserved win and it could have been bigger.
“The amount of chances and balls we had to attack makes us think we could have scored more goals and as we defended well, the triumph was never in danger.
“Of course I feel relieved. Three points from a possible 18 is something to be worried about, independent of what we deserved or not. To win was a necessity.”
Bielsa picked out several players for praise for their performance.
He added: “There were some players who shone, I thought Jamie Shackleton evolved, Diego Llorente came back well, Kalvin Phillips had influence and Tyler Roberts came in very well, plus the rest were all at a level of medium upwards.
“Llorente did not make defensive errors. He distributed the ball with precision and intelligence. Scored a goal which is a good way to round off a solid performance.
“Due to standing out Raphinha does not demand privileges. All the opposite takes more obligations. That's why he's valued so much by all of us due to his humility and his capacity of effort. Not common when accompanied with that talent.
“Tyler Roberts still has not linked his qualities with his performances. I, in particular, have a lot of confidence in his resources. I feel he can unbalance. I hope he can evolve and take a leading role. Today he took a step forward.”
Leeds quickly looked in the mood to give their home fans their first league win to celebrate since they were allowed back into Elland Road in big numbers and went on to dominate much of the 90 minutes.
They could have been ahead in the third minute as Stuart Dallas appeared to be pushed in the area, but referee Simon Hooper did not see anything wrong in the challenge.
Raphinha, who continued his return to top form from the previous week, was soon into the action, cutting in from the right only to see his shot well blocked.
The other winger, Dan James, went on to have his best game in a Leeds shirt and won the ball high up the pitch before Dallas was found in space on the edge of the area, but could not beat keeper Ben Foster with his low shot.
Dallas sent a shot wide after good work by Mateusz Klich and Junior Firpo before the opening goal came from a corner that was not cleared. The ball came off two Watford defenders and fell to defender Llorente who produced a striker's type finish with a quick strike into the goal in a crowded box.
Within a minute Leeds fans felt they should have had a penalty and it looked a clear and obvious error by referee Hooper not to award a spot kick as James was hauled down in the area, but VAR did not intervene.
The Whites were on fire at this point with Klich forcing a save from Foster and Raphinha putting Rodrigo in only for the Spanish striker to miscontrol with the goal looking at his mercy.
Dallas had a shot blocked after more good work by winger Raphinha, who two minutes later rounded Foster only to hit the side netting with his subsequent shot from a tight angle.
Watford did manage their only effort of the half on 27 minutes when defensive hesitancy allowed Ozan Tufan in only for him to blaze his shot over.
But it was essentially one-way traffic and amazing that it stayed 1-0 up to half-time as Rodrigo failed to make the most of another opportunity then Raphinha sent a cross-shot over and Klich's volley went just wide.
The second half followed the same pattern initially with Dallas having a shot blocked, Raphinha sending a 22-yard free-kick over and Dallas shooting over after being found in space in the area.
There was nothing coming back the other way and Raphinha almost scored direct from an inswinging corner.
It did get a little more nervy for the hosts in the last 20 minutes after they had not put the game to bed.
They were relieved when Illan Meslier dropped the ball into his own net from a Danny Rose corner only for a free-kick to be given as Liam Cooper had been brought down by Christian Kabasele.
But Watford offered little threat after this and it was United who came closest to another goal when substitute Tyler Roberts had a shot cleared off the line after Foster had dropped the ball and from the rebound he was then unlucky to see his acrobatic effort come back off the crossbar.
Leeds United 1
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Leeds: Meslier; Shackleton, Llorente, Cooper, Firpo; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich (Struijk 90+3), Dallas (Roberts 78), James; Rodrigo.
Watford: Foster; Femenia, Ekong, Sierralta (Kabasele 68), Rose; Tufan (Pedro 59), Sissoko; Sarr, Kucka, Dennis; King (Sema 45).
Referee: Simon Hooper