Monday 21 January 2019

Lampard doesn't like spying, Bielsa doesn't care as Leeds march on

Leeds United 2-0 Derby County

Leeds fans make binocular gestures in the stands at Elland Road during their victory over Derby County last night in the wake of the pre-match ‘spying’ controversy. Photo: PA
Leeds fans make binocular gestures in the stands at Elland Road during their victory over Derby County last night in the wake of the pre-match ‘spying’ controversy. Photo: PA

Luke Edwards

They used to revel in their dirty Leeds reputation at the height of their power, the mastery of the dark arts, their skill for skulduggery, so you will not find anyone who believes Marcelo Bielsa has tarnished the club's reputation as they strengthened their position at the top of the Championship.

Derby County were the team motivated by a sense of injustice after they caught a Leeds spy at their final training session, but Bielsa's men did not seem to be in the least bit worried by the cheating accusations, completely outplaying a supposed promotion rival.

The casual way Bielsa admitted to the crime before the game suggests it was not the first time the man spotted loitering in the bushes on Thursday, armed with binoculars, pliers and a change of clothes, had taken on such an underhand mission, but Leeds were back to their best here.

The animosity in the usually bland pre-match interviews was blatant, the tension crackled. Derby manager Frank Lampard was not impressed with the excuses; the mitigation of cultural differences. He made it clear Leeds had gained an unfair advantage. It was like Don Revie and Brian Clough all over again.

Lampard made no attempt to disguise his anger ahead of the game , despite speaking to Bielsa on Thursday evening and accused the Leeds manager of gaining an unfair advantage by ruining his side's preparations.

The former England international, in his first job as a manager, insisted he could not shrug off Bielsa's actions as a cultural difference and the Football Association have confirmed they are going to investigate the incident.

The 40-year-old also rubbished a suggestion, that was also made by Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, that spying on the opposition was not a problem because it happens all the time in Argentina.

"At least, on a sportsman's level, it's bad in my opinion," Lampard said. "If we're going to start talking about 'culturally, I did it somewhere else' - that doesn't work for me.

"If I'm lucky enough to do well and travel to another country I'll find out what the etiquette is in that country and abide by that.

"It's disrupted our build-up to this game. People are going to say I'm trying to make an excuse - but I'm going to speak like this after the game win, lose or draw. How you prepare the team is vitally important and we haven't been able to do that on Friday.

"I don't think we need to [investigate], because he's admitted it so it's easily dealt with. It's up to the league to see how they deal with it.

"Obviously it's not just Derby County, we had somebody the day before our first game against them which we lost 4-1. Now Leeds can beat you 4-1, they're a fantastic team, but we had somebody in the bushes that day, twice this season now.

"It's true there was someone from Leeds United," said Bielsa when asked about the incident. "The responsibility of this is me, I am responsible, there is some precision that I need to give.

"It doesn't matter if this is legal, illegal, right or wrong, for me it's enough that Frank Lampard and Derby County felt it was not the right thing to do. I didn't behave well.

"Yesterday I talked to Frank Lampard and he told me I didn't respect fair play. I have a different point of view on it but the important thing is what Frank and Derby think. I am responsible for it because I didn't ask for Leeds United permission to do it.

"Without trying to find a justification, I have been using this kind of practice since the qualifications for the World Cup with Argentina. This is not illegal, we have been doing it publicly, we talk about it in the press, for some people it is the wrong things, for others it's not."

A sold-out Elland Road loved it. They have never worried about whether people like them or not and when their team plays like this, why should they. Bielsa's behaviour might even endear him more to some supporters who share his 'by any means necessary' attitude.

Cranked

Lampard and Bielsa just about managed a strained handshake in front of the dugouts as the noise cranked up inside the stadium. Leeds United, under the lights, on a Friday night. The stadium rocked to the Bielsa beat.

The home side should have had a penalty after 45 seconds when Andre Wisdom brought down Ezgjan Alioski, but the Leeds player was incorrectly ruled offside when he started his run.

Derby, though, were in the eye of a storm, a white out. They barely got out of their own half and Leeds deservedly took the lead when Jack Clarke - another exciting young prospect off the Academy conveyor belt - beat Craig Bryson and delivered a low cross to the near post for Kemar Roofe to deftly flick beyond Scott Carson.

Leeds's dominance continued, the irrepressible Adam Forshaw going close to a second goal with a long-range rocket that sent Carson scrambling.

And the second goal came at the start of the second half, Jack Harrison left with a simple finish after Carson had only managed to divert another dangerous cross from Clarke straight to Alioski.

The home side continued to pour forward, their energy unflagging. Derby had no answer, no hope. A run of three successive defeats is over. Leeds are back to doing what they do best under Bielsa, they just also happen to be upsetting a few people along the way.

"Lampard, Lampard what's the score" rang out in stoppage time as the former Chelsea player looked at the floor.

Telegraph.co.uk

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport