Leeds United: Bielsa’s view as Eddie Nketiah’s crucial contribution presses his claim for starting slot

Leeds United players celebrate Eddie Nketiah's equaliser at Preston. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Leeds United players celebrate Eddie Nketiah's equaliser at Preston. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Marcelo Bielsa had to face questions on the chances of Eddie Nketiah now getting a starting role after the on-loan striker came off the bench to earn Leeds United a point in a 1-1 draw at Preston.

After Patrick Bamford missed another bunch of chances before he was taken off 13 minutes from time Nketiah came up with a big contribution as he won a free-kick then scored a header following it to make sure United did not lose their third away game on the trot.

Once again they had more possession, double the efforts on goal of their opponents, but somehow found themselves one down until Nketiah’s vital contribution three minutes from time.

The England under 21 striker now has five goals this season - one more than Bamford from almost two thirds less game time, leading to a clamour from fans for him to be given a starting role against Sheffield Wednesday this Saturday.

Head coach Bielsa would not be drawn on the prospects of Nketiah getting in ahead of Bamford, but said: “Bamford is a great player. Nketiah is too. I want both of them to be a success this year.

“If one of them has success, I will not take advantage of the other one. But this process lasts nine months and we have 46 matches or 50 matches. “We are in the 25 per cent of the competition. We have time in the future so I can find a way both of them will shine. If this doesn’t happen it’s not going to be a mistake of mine. “In the last press conference I said if Nketiah is not a success here it’s my fault. It’s the same with Patrick. I am trying to make this work.

“When you have more than one option for the team, it’s never a problem. It’s two solutions for one problem. I try to manage this.

“When you manage this, this fact had some difficulties the supporters cannot see. It’s natural people argue with my decision because they don’t have all the reasons I have.”

The first half saw lots of endeavour, but not a huge amount of excitement as it ended goalless.

With Preston playing a pressing game it was not easy for Leeds to play it out from the back and get their usual flow going, but they still enjoyed the better of the first half action.

Daniel Johnson hit a 20-yard shot well over after an early Preston corner was not cleared before Bamford could not direct a header on target from a flag kick at the other end.

Bamford had the first real chance when well placed in the area only to slice his shot wide with his right foot.

The Leeds number nine’s lack of confidence in front of goal could be seen again in the 22nd minute when he got himself free in the box only to head over from a Kalvin Phillips corner.

Three minutes later Stuart Dallas was almost played in, the ball ricocheted across to Bamford, but before the striker could get his shot away Ben Davies made a crucial last ditch tackle.

Another Phillips corner gave United a half chance as Helder Costa was found in space only to send a difficult volley over.

At the other end Kiko Casilla came out of his area to clear as David Nugent looked to run in behind the Leeds defence onto a through ball.

Bielsa’s men were soon back in attack and a good move involving Mateusz Klich and Jack Harrison ended with Gianni Alioski shooting just wide from the edge of the area.

Possibly the best chance of the half followed when a corner was not cleared and played back in by Alioski, but defender Ben White’s flick from eight yards out flick only succeeded in sending the ball straight to home keeper Declan Rudd.

Preston did manage a rare attack just before the break when Davies headed well wide from a corner.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first and once again saw United fail to make the most of half chances. Alioski had a shot well blocked, put another effort wide and Harrison volleyed wide from a tough angle.

Dallas sent a shot from distance straight at Rudd before Bamford missed the best of the opportunities when making poor contact after being picked out by Klich’s pull back following a good run by Costa.

Leeds were still looking comfortable when suddenly out of the blue they conceded as substitute Sean Maguire was found in yards of space down the right and his low cross gave Tom Barkhuizen a tap in for the opening goal - the home side’s first effort on target all night.

A response was needed and Dallas hit a shot not far over from range before Bielsa made a desperate double substitution, putting on Eddie Nketiah for the out of sorts Bamford, and attacker Tyler Roberts for defender Gaetano Berardi.

With United chasing the game they were almost caught out at the back as Maguire’s near post shot was turned away for a corner and from it Barkhuizen sent his effort over.

Leeds did manage their big finish, though, with Nketiah’s looping header from Harrison’s cross and had a valuable point.

They could have won it in the last seconds when Roberts went down in the area, but referee Kevin Friend waved away appeals.

Preston also came close to an injury time winner when Brad Potts’ near post header flashed just wide, but they were the happier with the draw after struggling to create many openings in the first 73 minutes of this match.

Match facts

Preston North End 1

(Barkhuizen 74)

Leeds United 1

(Nketiah 87)

Championship

Attendance: 18,275

Preston: Rudd, Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Rafferty, Pearson, Browne, Barkhuizen (Green 90+1), Johnson, Potts, Nugent (Maguire 71).

Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, White, Berardi (Roberts 77), Alioski, Phillips, Costa, Dallas, Klich, Harrison, Bamford (Nketiah 77).

Referee: Kevin Friend.