Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted his side’s Carabao Cup exit at the hands of 10-man Preston came as a painful blow – but the Argentine coach has offered his fringe players his backing.
Bielsa’s men top the Sky Bet Championship table after winning four of their opening five games and scoring 14 goals in the process.
But they drew a blank in the cup as Preston overcame the loss of Ryan Ledson to a 30th-minute red card to inflict a first defeat on Bielsa as Leeds boss, winning 2-0 thanks to Daniel Johnson’s early penalty and Brandon Barker’s stunning solo effort.
“We played 11 versus 10 for a long time but we didn’t reflect this superiority in offensive actions,” said Bielsa.
“They only needed four chances to score two goals. We had 12 chances and couldn’t score any.
“My conclusion is we didn’t play well but I don’t think the result should have been a defeat for us.
“For me it’s painful to be out of a competition. I would have liked to have continued in this cup because this kind of game increases the possibility for some players to be in the starting XI.”
The former Argentina and Chile coach made nine changes with one eye on Friday’s clash with Middlesbrough but he insisted he had no concerns about his fringe players.
“I think they’re ready to play,” he added. “We have different analysis to make. You can’t evaluate (Tom) Pearce, (Conor) Shaughnessy and (Jamie) Shackleton the way you evaluate (Kalvin) Phillips, (Samuel) Saiz and (Pontus) Jansson.”
Bielsa also refuted suggestions Leeds struggled to deal with Preston’s physicality, insisting the visitors’ approach was nothing he had not seen already this season.
“Obviously we played against an opponent with physical skills but usually we have responses for the kind of problem we faced,” he said.
“Today we could not find these responses.
“The problems we encountered were not new problems and the opposition was not overwhelmingly superior to the teams we have played against.
“But it took us too long to build from the back and play well with the ball.”
Alex Neil reaction
Preston had picked up only one point in the Championship following their victory over Morecambe in their previous cup tie but Alex Neil’s team took their frustration out on Leeds to advance to round three.
“We felt having watched them we knew how to play against them,” said Neil.
“We nicked the ball three or four times in the first five minutes and could have got another one or two goals.
“Our performances recently have been better than the scorelines suggested and we were a bit frustrated coming into this game because we wanted to put it right.
“I thought the lads did exceptionally well, showed that frustration and thoroughly deserved to win the game.
“I’ve seen Leeds live twice and they were outstanding. They’ve been blowing teams away so to beat them 2-0 and play an hour with 10 men speaks volumes for how well the lads have done.”