Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa denied that their more direct approach against Blackburn was intentional, while praising the performances of Barry Douglas and Mateusz Klich.
Leeds moved four points clear at the top of the Championship after beating Blackburn 3-1 at Ewood Park. Goals from Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich ensured Leeds maintain top spot, even if second-placed West Brom win their game in hand.
With five games left, Leeds are inching closer to their long-awaited Premier League return. However, there are obstacles in the way still for them to overcome – as their game against Blackburn showed.
Bielsa’s side had to adapt in order to come out on top, and he told reporters after the match that his side hadn’t planned on being as direct as they were.
“We play as always, we didn’t see so many passes before seeing the first pass. Maybe Cooper insisted a little more with Bamford to play more direct, but when the match progressed we could start the attack moving the ball and leave for long passes.”
There were several standout performances from the Leeds lineup, including the man who got their last goal. And asked if it was Mateusz Klich’s best game since the resumption of the league, Bielsa was affirmative.
“Yes. He did a great match today. He unbalanced the match for us. He unbalanced all the team today.”
Bielsa admitted that Blackburn did not line up as he had planned, which meant he had to adapt his own tactics.
“It’s very difficult what kind of match we were going to have. The opponent was playing with different shapes.
“Today they made some modifications we didn’t expect. Number nine as right winger. Eight as left winger. Seven as a forward. That was new from their manager today.”
Leeds’ second goal came from a Kalvin Phillips free kick, and Bielsa was praiseworthy of the midfielder for that decisive moment.
“Kalvin has very good quality with the side of his foot,” Bielsa said. “He didn’t expect the goal went there as well, to the post where the keeper wasn’t there.
“He thought he was going to shoot as in the last match, to the goalkeeper’s left.”
Stuart Dallas and Helder Costa were notable absentees from the Leeds squad, but Bielsa is hopeful he will have them available for their next game, against Stoke.
“They were close to playing today. We will see if they can play on Thursday.
“I couldn’t think about [rotating the lineup] because I knew two days ago Dallas and Costa weren’t able to play.”
In Dallas’ absence, Barry Douglas came into the side at left-back. And Bielsa was pleased with his “efficient” performance, admitting that he would have had more opportunities this season had it not been for Dallas’ form.
“In defence he had a good match, efficient. We were playing out, he is always correct. Even if he didn’t attack a lot, he chose the right moments to attack.
“After Dallas was one of the players with more impact in the team, he couldn’t get continuity playing. Maybe this was the reason he didn’t play as much as he imagined.”