If there is one complaint I have about Marcelo Bielsa...
04 Oct 2020 09:20 am, by YorkshireSquare
If there is one complaint I have about Marcelo Bielsa it’s that he has given me hope and made me care about Leeds United. That’s been in pretty short supply as a Leeds fan over the past 16 years. Aside from that promising Simon Grayson side, dismantled from under him by Ken Bates, there has been little to shout about. It’s difficult to get too worked up about a Neil Warnock or Steve Evans team. But now I care, care more than I have done for a long time, over this past two years Marcelo Bielsa has given me hope and that’s what made the first twenty-five minutes of Saturday’s game so excruciatingly painful to watch.
Many fans had declared the Man City game a “free hit” but I can’t say it felt like that to me. As De Bruyne hit the post and Raheem Sterling turned Luke Ayling inside out it felt like we could be in for a long afternoon. When Sterling cut inside again and nestled the ball in the bottom right hand corner of the net it seemed like a question of how many City would score. But I have hope because with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm there is every right to be hopeful and Leeds got themselves back in the game. Luke Aylings wonderful ball in to Alsioski, who headed over, was a sign that we were more than capable of creating opportunities and Leeds would have equally good chances from Stuart Dallas and Ayling himself before half time.
Kalvin Phillips, who had three men on him most of the time, grew into the game and largely kept Kevin De Bruyne quiet whilst Mateusz Klich worked himself into the ground to retain the foothold Leeds had carved out for themselves. It was the second half substitutes that took Leeds to the next Level though. Ian Poveda, on for Alioski, had Benjamin Mendy on strings. Nutmegging Raheem Sterling before beating the French left back for pace. On the rare occasion Mendy did catch up with Poveda, he simply stopped, put his foot on the ball and passed inside. I don’t think he stuck his tongue of and said “Na na na na na” but he would have been well within his rights.
Record signing Rodrigo was introduced just before the hour and it didn’t take him long to prove Gary Neville wrong, having dropped Rodrigo in his time as Valencia manager, much Martin Tyler's delight! Latching on to Klich’s ball he streaked into the box before unleashing a left footed shot which Ederson tipped onto the bat and out for a corner. Cities keeper was not quite so reliable for the resulting Kalvin Phillips, fumbling the ball for Rodrigo to tuck away to draw the scores level. The Brazillian did redeem himself in the space of ten minutes though as he tipped Rodrigo’s goal bound header onto the bar. Pace, skill, a left foot like a cannon and goals too, what isn’t to love about Rodrigo?
The introduction of Fernandinho with thirteen minutes to go steadied the ship for Pep Guardiola, City regained control of the midfield with Klich out on his feet. But Leeds kept the team from across the Pennines at bay, swarming in number and limiting them to long range efforts for the most part. Cooper, bar the early mistake, and particularly Koch were superb in defence and Meslier is as cool as they come, looking completely unshaken whilst grapping the ball from the feet of Raheem Sterling. There were times when it felt like Liverpool all over again, but Leeds held firm and secured a deserved point, there were even moments when they might have nicked all three.
As with the Liverpool game Leeds edged possession against one of the best footballing teams in Europe, they made more passes with a better pass completion rate, made more tackles and had more big chances. Whilst City had twice as many shots, they only had one on target with Leeds troubling Ederson on seven occasions. Had it not been for the Brazilian, Leeds could have recorded a famous victory. It was a game City should probably have put to bed in the first twenty minutes but in the end, it was a fair result. Leeds held their own against another top team and had the best chances.
They may make me fear cardiac arrest at times but I’m right to have hope in this team, I’m so incredibly proud of that performance and they all should be too. I’m just not sure I can manage fifteen days without seeing them play again!