After seeing his team answer their critics in emphatic style with a 4-0 win over promotion rivals West Brom, head coach Marcelo Bielsa praised his whole team’s attitude.
From first minute to last the Whites closed down their opponents in a highly energetic display as they responded to a white hot atmosphere and bounced back brilliantly from the defeat to QPR three nights earlier.
In the process they earned full revenge for a 4-1 beating they had received at West Brom and Bielsa was understandably pleased after looking so down at the end of the previous game.
In characteristic style the Argentine would not allow himself to get carried away, however, and put all the praise onto the players.
He said: “For me the most important thing was the effort, attitude and state of mind of the whole team during the whole game.
“When a win is based on such a consistent effort from the whole team, we have to say that this is the responsibility of the players.
“I don’t want to make excessive comments. When you win a game by a big difference it’s better to be moderate in your analysis.
“On Tuesday I shouldn’t have shown myself to be so disappointed but I don’t think I should be very happy tonight either.
“We should underline the reaction of the players individually and collectively, but I don’t want to underline the result or the win because we’ve already produced performances similar to the one tonight. We have to recognise the great spirit of the team.”
After being unhappy in midweek after suggestions that the Leeds team was running out of energy, Bielsa added: “The loss on Tuesday was not due to a lack of effort.
“I don’t want to build an answer in response to an illegitimate question I was asked on Tuesday. We didn’t need the performance tonight to see that we didn’t lack energy last Tuesday.
“For me, the most important thing was the effort, the attitude, the behaviour and the state of mind of the whole team during the whole game. It’s a win which is owed exclusively to the players.”
It was obviously a huge game for Leeds and they could have not wished for a better start with a goal after just 16 seconds and from West Brom’s kick-off!
Liam Cooper won the ball in the air, Jack Harrison raced down the left wing and found Pablo Hernandez unmarked on the edge of the box. With time to weigh up a shot, the Spaniard struck with real venom to send the ball flying into the top corner of the net.
Cue delirium inside Elland Road and United were inspired by the backing they received as they tore into their opponents with an urgency and a pressing game that had been missing since they beat another of their rivals, Derby, in January.
The Whites did not go on to create as many chances as they have in recent home games, but there was a real sharpness about their play this time and a more clinical feel.
Tyler Roberts could have maybe done better than his first time flick that was comfortably saved after he got onto the end of Luke Ayling’s low ball into the area, but there was no stopping Patrick Bamford from doubling the lead.
Roberts was provider this time with a deft pass into the path of Bamford, who then took several confident touches to get clear and confidently send the ball past keeper Sam Johnstone.
Albion managed their one effort on target when Jay Rodriguez’s well struck volley had to be tipped over by Kiko Casilla.
The visitors looked more determined at the start of the second half with Hal Robson-Kanu heading over.
But Leeds regained control and Johnstone had to get down well to save Mateusz Klich’s low shot after some clever play in the build-up by Roberts, who was enjoying himself against his old club.
Roberts did well again to find Bamford just inside the area and the £7 million striker worked his way into shooting range before seeing his strike deflect past Johnstone to make it 3-0.
There was little in the way of a response from West Brom and it was leeds who could have added to their advantage when Ezgjan Alioski flashed a shot inches wide.
Klich forced another save from Johnstone before the icing on the cake came in added time as a superb build-up saw substitute Jamie Shackleton get in behind the visitors’ defence and supply the perfect low cross for Alioski to finish from close range for his seventh goal of the season.
The goal was thoroughly deserved by Alioski who had possibly his best game in a Leeds shirt and seemed to be all over the pitch in an incredibly energetic display.
With Roberts also having his best game for the team it was a night that will live long in the memory for all who were at Elland Road - and a result that has re-energised Leeds’ promotion bid, putting them top until this afternoon at least.
Leeds United 4
(Hernandez 1 Bamford 28, 63, Alioski 90+2)
West Bromwich Albion 0
Friday, March 1, 2019
Sky Bet Championship
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Hernandez, Klich, Roberts (Shackleton 90), Harrison (Dallas 77), Bamford.
West Brom: Johnstone, Holgate, Dawson, Hegazi, Adarabioyo, Harper (Field 65), Livermore, Barry (Morrison 63), Robson-Kanu (Montero 70), Rodruguez, Gayle.
Referee: Tim Robinson.