Thursday 16 August 2018

Elland Road rocking as Bielsa makes winning start

Leeds United 3 Stoke City 1

Leeds United's Gaetano Berardi and Stoke City's James McClean. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Leeds United's Gaetano Berardi and Stoke City's James McClean. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Mike Whalley

Marcelo Bielsa will admit his new club has a long way to go to deliver the "beautiful football" he promised when he took over at Leeds this summer.

However, after 14 seasons away from the Premier League, the club's long-suffering fans will gladly accept plenty more of the same over the coming nine months.

Stoke manager Gary Rowett conceded that many of his newly-relegated players were shocked by the intensity and pace of the Championship. But Bielsa, on day one at least, certainly made his transition from the elite of European and world football to the muck and nettles of England's second tier look painfully simple.

"It's a dynamic team, it's an offensive team, it's a team that dares to play," said Bielsa of his winning line-up.

"My team took risks when they were moving the ball so these are the positive aspects even though we lacked a little bit of experience at the end of the game.

"The atmosphere was even better than I thought it would be, the fans were connected to the players for every second of the game. I hope our football will create a positive reaction."

Stoke City's Tom Ince is fouled by Leeds United's Barry Douglas. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Stoke City's Tom Ince is fouled by Leeds United's Barry Douglas. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Those fans, experiencing their biggest opening weekend win of a season in 16 years, certainly needed little encouragement to get behind a new manager of whom no less a disciple than Pep Guardiola this week spoke of his "incredible admiration.

Exhilarating

After six exhilarating minutes, Jack Butland's reflexes denied Kemar Roofe at the near post.

Nine minutes later, Leeds were ahead. Bielsa remained glued to the plastic bucket on which he sat outside the Leeds dug-out as Mateusz Klich finished tidily after superb footwork and a through ball from Samuel Saiz played him in.

Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski and Stoke City's Moritz Bauer battle for the ball. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski and Stoke City's Moritz Bauer battle for the ball. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

On the stroke of half-time, the lead was doubled, with an assist from Butland who allowed a Pablo Hernandez shot through his gloves after Barry Douglas's lay-off.

There were glimpses of uncertain defending from Leeds, not least on 52 minutes when Douglas needlessly tripped Tom Ince close to goal and debutant Benik Afobe scored from the spot.

But within four minutes, Douglas had made amends, helping to win a corner from which he himself planted the ball onto the head of Liam Cooper who glanced a superb, angled finish past Butland.

Stoke had come close in between the opening two Leeds goals, with Ince hitting the bar and James McClean wasting a two-on-one break, but this was a scoreline that might actually have flattered Rowett's side. (Daily Telegraph, London).

Telegraph.co.uk

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