Published on April 13thEmbed from Getty Images
Marcelo Bielsa praised his ‘rebellious’ Leeds United team for their ‘spirited’ display against runaway league leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
The Whites went down to 10 men in the first half but still managed to secure a famous 2-1 win thanks to a Stuart Dallas brace.
The midfielder opened the scoring in the 42nd minute after being set up by Patrick Bamford. Just minutes later, defender Steve Cooper saw red for a dangerous tackle on City forward Gabriel Jesus. In the second half, Leeds – a man down – managed to keep their opponents at bay until the last 15 minutes when Ferran Torres sent a first-time effort past Illan Meslier to end his goalscoring drought for City.
But the heroic Dallas bagged an injury-time winner for Leeds after a flowing counter-attack to take them up to 45 points in the Premier League.
Reacting to the victory, Bielsa told BBC Sport:
“I think we have to link the victory to the spirit of the players. The spirit of all the players added together creates a uniform effort. It’s very difficult to win games like today. I think we deserved it but the fair thing would have been for City to win it because they had the dominance and the chances.
“From the adversity and effort of the players it was emotional for me. It was a rebellious team. They weren’t resigned to lose what we had at play.”
Throughout Bielsa’s tenure at Elland Road, the iconic Argentinian coach instilled belief, desire, courage and a bravery in their game that so few can in the division match.
At the Etihad, Leeds were indeed ‘rebellious’, and full of ‘spirit’, even when the odds were stacked against them after going a man down, they still held the energy levels, the desire and determination to defy the odds, to upset the order, the hallmarks of what Leeds United as a club have represented throughout their decorated history.
Teams are not generally beating Manchester City. And teams do not beat Guardiola’s men in the face of such a ripe disadvantage. It is one thing preparing to play against City’s methods when the odds are even but another thing to confront them in circumstances which threaten the inevitable.
But that’s what’s so admirable of this Leeds team, they never give in. They’ll keep on fighting. From the first minute against Bielsa’s team to the last, teams are in a nerve-wrecking, gut-wrenching battle.
Match winner Stuart Dallas insisted after the game that there is always belief in Leeds’ squad that they can upset the odds wherever they play.
“You’ve just got to look at the game on Saturday,” the Northern Ireland international told Sky Sports News. “We went to Manchester City to win the game, whether people call us crazy or naïve that’s their opinion.
“He (Bielsa) showed a belief in us that we can go to these places and get a result. Of course we’re not going to win the league but we’re more than capable of putting in a performance and we’ve shown that throughout the season.”
Bielsa has his detractors. Their visit to Old Trafford in December which ended in a 6-2 defeat had his critics furious at why a coach could be praised for such a thrashing after employing tactics that left his players exposed, but his players didn’t care, nor did Bielsa himself. They’ve kept plugging away and look at what they have achieved six months on from that result.
Whether Bielsa is at the helm in the immediate future or not, he’s already laying the groundwork for the club to be a long-term success, and it is why owner Andrea Radrizzani believes that this club will continue to grace the Premier League with their ‘spirited’ and ‘rebellious’ characteristics for the long haul.
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