Marcelo Bielsa sees worry and hope in Leeds United's goalless draw at Brighton
They may have brought back a point from a long travel, but Marcelo Bielsa admitted his team were not at the races on the south coast again in the first half as Leeds United took on Brighton at the AMEX Stadium.
After delivering probably their worst display under Bielsa in the Premier League when they last travelled to the south coast at Southampton last month the Whites looked on course for a repeat as they struggled to get going against opponents who did the double over them last season.
Leeds have still to win at this ground since Brighton switched there, but after a second half improvement they did at least manage to bring home what could turn out to be an important point with a goalless draw.
The point may have owed as much to Brighton's poor finishing in front of goal as it did to United's display, but they will take it. Just a week earlier they had been worth a point only to lose at Tottenham and before that could easily have beaten Leicester City instead of drawing with them so their luck was due a turn.
"The point is an an important point for us and after the first half to have evened the game we value it," said head coach Bielsa.
“In the first half, the differences were clear. In the second half, the game was even, with opportunities for both teams and we improved in everything.
“In the first half there was a lack of organisation and a lot of things for us to correct, but in no way do I think it is linked to the players who came on or came off.
“It was just down to the fact in the first half we weren’t a team co-ordinated and in the second half, the function collectively improved.
“They created too many chances in the first half and there were too few from us.
“The differences in the first half worry us and the recovery in the second half gives us optimism and hope.
“In the second half we managed to look a lot more like our usual selves, without managing to shine or unbalance them.”
Bielsa explained his reason for taking off Kalvin Phillips at half-time after the England midfielder had start in defence and moved into his preferred midfield role before his unexpected substitution.
He added: “It was a change because I thought the characteristics of Pascal Struijk were better suited to the game.
“The game positionally had a lot in similar to the game against Tottenham Hotspur.
“I thought forming a back four of Kalvin Phillips, Diego Llorente, Liam Cooper and Junior Firpo would help us to neutralise Brighton.
“I associated their number 11 with Son and their number nine with Kane and their number two with Moura due to their position and function they had.
“We started the game like that, but it wasn’t the correct decision.”
The pattern of the game was set early with Leeds unable to string two passes together initially and Brighton all over them with Tariq Lamptey causing mayhem down his side's right hand side.
His cross in the very first minute created a first chance for the hosts, but Jakub Moder sent his volley over.
Junior Firpo struggled on his return to the starting line-up at left-back and after collecting an early booking he found it hard to stop the speedy Lamptey. After he and Jack Harrison lost the Brighton wide man his cross found Neal Maupay only for the striker to miss a great opportunity from inside the six-yard area.
Maupay put in a better effort from further out, but keeper Illan Meslier was equal to it.
A brief flurry from Leeds led to Raphinha going down in the area, but penalty claims fell on deaf ears.
The Whites were soon back defending again and Meslier came to the rescue with a fine save, tipping Leandro Trossard's powerful shot onto the crossbar - the first of three times the Seagulls were to be denied by the woodwork.
Leeds had a couple of half-chances as they finally settled into the game, but Raphinha's free-kick and a shot by Dan James - starting up front again - came to nothing.
Meslier made another save to deny the dangerous Trossard, but could only watch on soon after as Jakub Moder hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Maupay's lack of confidence in front of goal showed when he fluffed another good chance set up by another run and cross by Lamptey and United were more than pleased to get back in the dressing room still level at half-time.
Jamie Shackleton was sent on to replace Firpo and Struijk came on for Phillips at the start of the second half, but Leeds did not initially improve as their hosts made all the running once more, without being able to put a finishing touch to their better approach play.
But the tide slowly began to turn with Stuart Dallas - who had switched from the right to left-back - forcing Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez into a save with a well struck shot from outside the area.
However, Trossard hit a shot from distance wide as the home team showed they were still dangerous and Moder also sent his effort wide.
Bielsa sent on his third sub in Tyler Roberts and he made an impact, giving the side a presence in the middle of attack that they had been missing.
Soon after coming on he was sent clear by a good pass from Struijk, but Sanchez saved his angled shot.
With the game going end to end now Brighton sub Solly March saw his deflected shot from the edge of the box tipped over by Meslier.
Roberts was unable to take a half-chance, but went closer moments later when getting on the end of an Adam Forshaw pass only to be denied by the keeper's legs.
From the resulting corner the ball dropped to Roberts in the box and his deflected strike looked to be creeping into the corner of the net only for Sanchez to make an outstanding save.
Brighton had one late chance when March's low shot in the area hit the post via Meslier's outstretched arms.
It was a better game than a typical goalless draw, but a point each was how it stayed.
Brighton & Hove Albion 0
Leeds United 0
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Brighton: Sanchez; Lamptey (March 76), Webster, Dunk, Cucurella; Veltman, Bissouma, Gross, Moder (Sarmiento 82); Trossard, Maupay (Locadia 68).
Leeds: Meslier; Llorente, Phillips (Struijk 45), Cooper; Dallas, Forshaw, Firpo (Shackleton 45); Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison (Roberts 63); James.
Referee: Craig Pawson