Marcelo Bielsa has absolved his players of any blame for their humbling FA Cup defeat at Crawley.
Leeds will bid to bounce back on Saturday when they return to Premier League action against Brighton and Bielsa, publicly at least, has accepted full responsibility for their shocking third-round exit.
He made seven changes for the tie and during the game sent on teenagers Sam Greenwood and Jack Jenkins for their senior debuts. He also replaced skipper Liam Cooper with young defender Oliver Casey.
💬 "It will be a tough test" Liam sits down to discuss Saturdayâs Premier League fixture with Brighton— Leeds United (@LUFC) January 14, 2021
“I can’t ignore that I made three changes and the result was not expected because in the first half we dominated,” Bielsa said.
“I can’t hold any player responsible for the defeat, especially not the younger ones, or for the unbalance that was in the game.
“The distribution of the minutes and the players that took part, was not the correct one – and that is a decision that has to do with me.”
Crawley, who had defended doggedly before the break, took full advantage as Leeds lost momentum and turned the tie on its head with three goals in 20 second-half minutes.
“Perhaps I should have combined the same players differently and given all the players their corresponding minutes,” Bielsa said.
“Evidently, the team in the first half had balance and the team in the second did not – and I was responsible for picking both of those XIs.”
Bielsa accepted that most of the subsequent criticism of his side was understandable.
“There were 60 positions between the two teams,” he said. “This is Crawley’s best result in their history. This is Leeds’ fifth-worst loss in their history.
Nobody knows the hurt that we had to go through because of this defeatMarcelo Bielsa
“So all the conclusions are fair. Like in all the cases where it doesn’t go well, we try to look at why the things that we didn’t want to happen happened.
“But I don’t feel we have to feel embarrassed. Nobody knows the hurt that we had to go through because of this defeat, but we went to the stadium taking it seriously.”
Wins against West Brom and Burnley at the end of last month have helped Leeds keep some daylight between themselves and the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Victory on Saturday would lift them 12 points clear of their opponents Brighton, who sit one place above the bottom three.
Leeds will be without talisman Kalvin Phillips, who sits out a one-game ban after reaching five yellow cards, but Bielsa has no new injury worries and Tyler Roberts has recovered from illness and is available.