Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has come in for some heavy criticism following the club’s embarrassing 3-0 FA Cup exit at the hands of League Two Crawley.
United became just the second ever top-flight side to lose to a club from the fourth tier of English football by three goals as Crawley claimed a 3-0 win in their FA Cup third-round tie.
It means Leeds have lost every game they have played in the FA Cup during Bielsa’s three seasons in charge. The manner of their exit made this one particularly painful for their supporters.
Playing in the competition as a Premier League club for the first time since 2004, Leeds failed to assert their dominance over their opponents from League Two.
After going in 0-0 at half-time, Head coach Bielsa had made a triple substitution at half-time. Leeds brought off Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk and Rodrigo, with Jack Harrison moved to attack and the untested Oliver Casey and Jack Jenkins also introduced.
And former Everton midfielder Leon Osman, speaking to Match of the Day 2, felt the changes were “strange”.
“I think they (Crawley) expected Leeds to have a lot of the play,” Osman said. “They (Leeds) had 71% of the possession, but they played into Crawley’s hands.
“They made some strange substitutions at half-time.
“But take nothing away from what Crawley did. (For the second goal) they allowed this kind of pass into midfield, swarmed around it and made sure they won the ball back.
“(Tom) Nicholls gets the ball, runs into space and plays the ball in behind and they get the goal.”
As well as the substitutions, Osman felt Leeds leaving the inexperienced Casey in a one-v-one was also a major mistake.
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“From Leeds’ point of view, you have just made substitutions at half-time. You have taken off your captain, Cooper, and you isolate Oliver Casey one v one.
“He is asked to defend the area all by himself and Crawley, with that game plan, just capitilised on that.”
Osman also felt a lack of height in the defence was also key. Cooper’s withdrawal often left Kalvin Phillips at the tallest member of Leeds’ defence.
Osman added: “We just mentioned Cooper going off, the main header of the ball and you only leave yourself (Kalvin) Phillips in the middle who can go win a set-piece.
“It’s unfair to ask them to that there. Phillips wins the first ball but he can’t do it all by himself and what an afternoon it was for Crawley.”
Bamford omission also key
Leeds lacked their usual cohesion in attack and Osman also felt the omission of leading scorer Patrick Bamford also played a part in Leeds’ struggles.
“They didn’t [make a mark],” he said of Leeds’ attackers. “They played without Bamford today. They played with [Helder] Costa, Rodrigo, (Pablo) Hernandez and all of them wanted to play in pockets of space but they only ever had one in the penalty area at one moment of time.
“Even when they did show quality, they wanted the final pass and there was no one really in there. Crawley defended well and Leeds grew frustrated more and more.
“(Crawley) were terrific. They are on a really good run, 10 unbeaten and (manager) John Yems has said all week that his team were going to be on the front foot, take the game to Leeds and they did that and more.”