Bristol City 0 Leeds United 1 - talking points: Bielsa's differing Bamford treatment, Casilla proving worth, Berra is back and Ashton Gate celebrations

Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford opened the scoring against Bristol City.Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford opened the scoring against Bristol City.
Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford opened the scoring against Bristol City.
Leeds United secured a crucial 1-0 away victory at Bristol City on Saturday in the Championship - but what were the key talking points? Phil Hay takes a look.

Bamford soldiers on

Marcelo Bielsa’s handling of injuries is fairly formulaic: a full programme of rehabilitation followed by appearances with Leeds United’s Under-23s, all of which breaks a player back in. No-one is risk and no-one is rushed. “There’s never any pressure put on by Marcelo,” said Rob Price, the club’s head of medicine and performance.

Patrick Bamford was an exception; brought back into the first-team fold ahead of schedule last month having recovered from a second knee ligament injury. Bielsa planned to use Bamford in a development-squad game first but changed his mind after telling the striker he was anxious to use him at the level Leeds signed him for. It was a rare occasion when United’s head coach gave the impression that a player lacking fitness was someone he could not manage without.

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That same attitude was evident at Bristol City as Bamford toiled with a knock sustained as he converted the only goal of the game. Bamford slid straight into a post after scoring in the ninth minute and could have been substituted there and then. He needed more treatment in the first half and was all but signalling to the bench that the pain was preventing him from moving properly.

Bielsa persisted with him in the second half but bowed to the inevitable after 57 minutes, replacing Bamford with Stuart Dallas who had been warming up for more than half an hour. “Sometimes when you know a player is important you resist the temptation to take him off the pitch,” Bielsa said, “but because he was not 100 per cent, his performance decreased.” A half-fit Bamford seemed better to Bielsa that no Bamford, and with six goals in eight games it is easy to understand why.

A reaction at full-time which told a story

Every win matters now and a win like Saturday’s matters more when two of the other clubs at the top of the Championship have already put their fixtures to bed. Norwich City beat Swansea City on Friday night and Sheffield United saw off Rotherham United in a lunchtime kick-off yesterday, leaving Leeds in third place when their game at Bristol City began.

Bielsa’s players knew how the table looked beforehand - “one way or another, the information always comes to you,” said Pontus Jansson afterwards - and it ramped up the pressure and the tension at Ashton Gate. When six minutes of injury-time were over, the reaction of the players (led by a raucous, crowd-stirring Jansson) said much about the satisfaction they took from a tight 1-0 win. It was an ugly duckling in comparison to their rampant victory over West Bromwich Albion but it mattered as much. “We beat West Brom 4-0 and then we had a tough away day today,” Jansson said. “We’ve won again and that’s a huge statement from us.”

Casilla proving his value

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A goalkeeper from Real Madrid signing for a Championship club could never hope to exceed expectations but Kiko Casilla has not fallen short of them either. It was assumed that Leeds were landing an elite player when they took him on a free transfer and Casilla’s poise is what Bielsa was looking for in behind his defence.

If there is one weakness in Casilla’s game then it is found in his reaction to dangerous deliveries - a keeper prone to seeking out crosses he has little chance of claiming - but his reading of games is excellent, allowing him to make the right decisions at the right times.

His rush to meet Marlon Pack when Bristol City shaped to equalise late in the first half stopped Pack from setting himself and getting a shot away, and he denied the midfielder again with his feet after half-time. There was a risk of him getting caught in no-man’s land after Matty Taylor got free in United’s box but having sprinted from his line, Casilla avoided panicking and stood up tall to bring Taylor’s lob under control.

The crucial aspect for Bielsa is that his defenders are never looking over their shoulders or worrying about what is happening behind them. The pointed exchanges which went on between Bailey Peacock-Farrell and his centre-backs have not been necessary with Casilla and Bielsa is clearly happy with him. “He brings serenity to the team,” the Argentinian said.

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Berardi back in business - but will he get back in the team?

Bielsa loves Gaetano Berardi, his professionalism and the quality of his passing, and the Swiss defender has felt like part of the furniture this season despite the fact that he has hardly been seen since August.

He has played in so few games that in any division where 10 appearances were needed to earn a winners’ medal, Berardi would not yet qualify but he came on as a substitute for the last seven minutes of normal time at Ashton Gate and will have the pleasure of being at the coalface for the run-in.

The 30-year-old, who has never undergone surgery in his career and resisted it after tearing a hamstring in October for fear of missing the rest of the season, was one of Bielsa’s first picks at centre-back but the consistency of Jansson and Liam Cooper might keep him out of the team for what remains of it. Jansson was often good for a suspension in the past but including the two cautions shown to him at Stoke City in January, he has accumulated just seven yellow cards so far. Cooper has an even better record and his booking in the first half on Saturday was only his second. Leeds’ woeful discipline last season is a fading memory.

A half-full away end

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Ashton Gate was a sell-out on for the first time this season and the YEP received several reports of Leeds supporters buying tickets in the home end, only to have their purchases revoked for safety reasons when Bristol City found that they were registered on United’s database (something EFL clubs are allowed to check).

The scramble to be there was not helped by a small away allocation of 2,600 in a stand which had up to eight rows of seats covered by black sheets. There was crowd trouble in Bristol when Swansea City visited last month and it was clear that the club were taking no chances with segregation.