MARCELO Bielsa gave credit to Kemar Roofe for two “very beautiful goals” against Derby County and revealed that the striker’s team ethic was behind the decision to start him up front his season.
Roofe earned the man-of-the-match award for the second time in a week on Saturday, striking twice in either half to inspire Leeds United’s 4-1 thrashing of Derby at Pride Park.
The former Oxford United forward, who finished last season as Leeds’ top scorer, found the net with a hanging header before half-time and gave Bielsa’s side a 3-1 advantage on the hour with a clever turn and shot inside the box.
Roofe was prefered by Bielsa to £7m signing Patrick Bamford for Leeds’ first game of the Championship season against Stoke City and kept Bamford on the bench until the latter stages at Pride Park with a classy display of finishing.
Bielsa admitted that Roofe’s effort had been more impressive against Stoke than on Saturday, saying his contribution in the opening match had made the “offensive actions of his team-mates easier”, but he pointed to the 25-year-old’s workrate as a reason for selecting him.
Bamford arrived at Elland Road late in the permanent transfer window, signing from Middlesbrough less than a week before the season began. He made his debut as a substitute at Pride Park, replacing Roofe for the final 11 minutes.
Bielsa said: “Roofe worked more time with us (in pre-season) and he has some mechanisms that make the collective play easier.
“One thing that is important is the individual performance but there are interactions between the individual performance and the collective performance too. They’re mutually necessary.
“I see how each player develops in these two aspects, individual and collective. Kemar Roofe has an advantage of 40 days (of pre-season training with Bielsa over Bamford).
“It’s always important when a player scores two goals during a win. In the last game he worked more and in the last game he made the offensive actions of his team-mates easier. But today he had a more important intervention in finishing the actions. His two goals were very beautiful ones.”
United’s flowing display at Derby, a club where they had won once in 16 years before the weekend, earned widespread acclaim and Bielsa saw the performance as an improvement on Leeds’ 3-1 win over former title favourites Stoke, despite picking fault with parts of the first half.
“It was less difficult for us to find balls to attack with,” Bielsa said. “The performance of some players, some offensive players, lasted for more time.
“But in the first half we had moments of instability. We could point out this aspect as one to correct. Derby County have good players and a head coach (Frank Lampard) who will allow the team to play an important role during the Championship.”
The closing stages of the match saw Bielsa hand a debut to Jamie Shackleton, the 18-year-old midfielder who has long been touted as one of the leading academy talents at Thorp Arch.
Shackleton was sent on to shore up the centre of the pitch and Bielsa said: “I told him to put some balance into the midfield. I told him to help the team stay organised, get the ball back and not to lose it when he had it.”
Shackleton is likely to make his full debut in tomorrow night’s Carabao Cup first-round tie against Bolton Wanderers at Elland Road.