Marcelo Bielsa hails players after 'one of Leeds United's best performances of season'

Marcelo Bielsa praised his Leeds United players after they produced one of their best home performances to achieve their first Elland Road win of the season against a "big six" team.

Sunday, 9th May 2021, 8:00 am
Rodrigo, who scored his first goal of 2021 when on target against Tottenham.

The Whites' 3-1 success over a Tottenham Hotspur side desperate for points to to maintain their bid for a Champions League place was convincing - and achieved largely without key player Kalvin Phillips, who only came on as a late substitute.

This display was chalk and cheese to the one given by the same starting 11 in defeat at Brighton and it was a thrilling return to the swashbuckling attacking style that has won United so many plaudits this season.

That Leeds fully deserved their victory could not be doubted as only some fantastic saves by French international Hugo Lloris prevented them from winning by a bigger margin.

Spurs played their part in a hugely entertaining contest and could have scored more than their one goal, but they were well beaten at the finish with head coach Bielsa delighted with what he saw from his players.

He said: "Considering the fortitude of the opponents and the way we attack and defend it was one of the best (performances) of the season.

"The performance in the last game was an unexpected one for us and I think the level of production didn't respond to the level of players we had on the field so so I thought it was considered to maintain the same 11 players.

"We could have scored more goals, but we could have conceded more as well. I think to win by two goals was adequate and fair.

"I don't think Tottenham played without enthusiasm. On our part I link it to the spirit of the players.

"For a while now we hope to play on an equal term with an important opponent. In some ways today we achieved this."

Bielsa praised all his players, but was pleased with the contribution of Ezgjan Alioski who was much improved from the previous week, marking Gareth Bale out of the game.

He explained: "He's a player with a lot of experience, he's been playing in the left full-back for some time now. He's clearly had a path which has been an ascension.

"He's improved a lot in decision making."

On other members of the team Bielsa added: “Rodrigo is a vital player for us. The obligation of all of us that are part of this group, is to manage to get him to be able to do everything he is capable of doing.

“It’s important we manage to see the richness that he has, football wise.

“He’s a player who has the solutions to the problem of the game without anyone indicating them to him.

“Today was a difficult game for Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk and Robin Koch. Pascal had a performance without errors and Llorente the same.

“They were very solid to defend and secure in the management of the ball and Robin was one of the bright lights of the game. He defended well and he didn’t lose the ball.”

United were quick out of the blocks as they looked to erase memories of their below par display at Brighton with Patrick Bamford offering the first threat as he got in behind the Spurs defence to fire in an angled shot that brought the first of Lloris's saves.

Struijk sent a volley over from the resulting corner while Tyler Roberts combined well with Bamford on the next attack only to see his shot comfortably saved.

It was no surprise when Leeds went ahead in the 13th minute as Jack Harrison's dangerous low cross from the left was sent towards his own goal by Spurs defender Sergio Reguilon. Although Lloris made a fine save to keep the ball out Stuart Dallas was on hand to put away the rebound emphatically.

Further pressure did not produce a chance, but the visitors did not threaten until out of the blue they equalised as Delli Alli's through ball saw Son Heung-Min find a hole in the home defence to confidently score.

Leeds were straight back on the attack, however, as Harrison ran into the area before producing a shot that had to be tipped over by Lloris.

Robin Koch - again deputising in midfield - then saw his shot from outside the box deflected just wide.

England captain Harry Kane showed how dangerous he could be as he found the net for Spurs with one of his rare touches in the home area, but he was ruled to be marginally offside by VAR.

Undeterred, the hosts went forward again with Dallas's great cross somehow eluding United attackers.

They did regain the lead just before half-time after a great team move started by Dallas and resulting in a close range finish from Bamford from Alioski's low cross.

Tottenham threw more at Leeds after the break with Kane again offside as he put the ball in the net. Roberts could only weakly shoot wide after United threatened again.

An equaliser looked on the cards when Kane shot wide from 20 yards then Son got free in the box only to hit his effort into the side netting.

But Leeds survived the pressure and still looked like scoring again themselves, Mateusz Klich's powerful shot having to be well saved by Lloris.

It was the turn of home keeper Illan Meslier to make a superb save in the 70th minute when he tipped over a well struck Serge Aurier shot that took a deflection along the way.

Spurs came close again when Kane's free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar, but that was the last seen of them in attack as United bossed the closing stages with substitute Raphinha looking particularly dangerous down the left.

Several chances came and went with Klich and Harrison twice each going close before the win was finally sealed in the 84th minute.

Substitute Rodrigo was left with a simple finish after Alioski put Raphinha clear down the left and his perfect pass presented the Spanish striker with the chance for his fourth goal for Leeds.

Dallas came close to adding another for the Whites with his late strike being well saved by Lloris. But it did not matter as the points were well secure and Leeds now have a tally of 50 in their first season back in the big league.

Leeds United 3

(Dallas 13, Bamford 42, Rodrigo 84)

Tottenham Hotspur 1

(Son 25)

Premier League

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Alioski; Koch; Dallas, Klich (Phillips 89), Roberts (Raphinha 58), Harrison; Bamford (Rodrigo 79).

Tottenham: Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, LoCelso (Ndombele 79); Bale (Moura 66), Alli (Lamela 66), Son; Kane.

Referee: Michael Oliver.