Marcelo Bielsa unable to explain early mistakes as Leeds United battle back to draw with Preston North End

Marcelo Bielsa couldn't explain why Leeds United made so many uncharacteristic mistakes in a difficult opening to their 1-1 draw with Preston North End.

Thursday, 26th December 2019, 8:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th December 2019, 8:44 pm
Marcelo Bielsa said his side were in control after the first 20 minutes (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)

The Whites head coach credited Preston North End for controlling the first 20 minutes, but felt Leeds were dominant after that and created enough chances to win.

Preston took the lead on 22 minutes after a Leeds attack broke down, Alex Neil's men countering to devastating effect in the same way Leeds have done to others recently, Alan Browne beating Kiko Casilla.

Leeds didn't get back into it until late on, Stuart Dallas' deflected shot in the 89th minute rescuing a point.

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But before and after that the hosts had chances. Gjanni Alioski struck the post, Eddie Nketiah forced a fine save from Declan Rudd and Helder Costa shot wide from 12 yards.

Bielsa was unimpressed by his side's start but felt they should have found the net before they did.

"Preston controlled the match in the first 20 minutes," he said.

"From there, the rest of the match, the other 75 minutes it was Leeds who controlled it. We should have levelled the match earlier.

"Even when we levelled, we could have scored one more goal after. We had another chance. We have to make a difference between the first 20 minutes and the other 75.

"I think we created enough chances to win."

Preston's early impetus was aided and abetted by sloppy play from Leeds, players all over the pitch guilty of poor touches and inaccurate passes. That handed Preston early chances and eventually, a 1-0 lead.

"The Preston chances had two characteristics," said Bielsa.

"The first four chances before they scored, they were linked with our mistakes in playing out. It is fair to recognise that they forced our mistakes. But we could have avoided them. The Preston goal was special because it was the first time in those 20 minutes where we built a very dangerous chance. But we couldn't finish this chance. That was the first time that we broke the pressure of Preston. We had superiority in attack and we lost the ball in this situation in an unexpected way. What was dangerous for them became a goal against us. When we took the first step to try to begin to control the match, what we didn't expect then happened. But from then the team was the same as always.

"[I wasn't pleased] with the first 20 minutes because when the strategy of an opponent is that they want to force you to have mistakes. We needed to leave the match to develop without making mistakes, even if we cannot play well. We tried to play well and we made some mistakes. We tried to play and in this we made some mistakes that allowed them to unbalance the match.

"We should have had more patience and maybe developed our play,

"We can explain what has happened, why [the mistakes] happened, I couldn't say.

"They were trying to avoid us building the play from the back. This strategy worked for 20 minutes and after it didn't work any more. It is not a critic, it is a good thing they do, I recognise Preston. But also I value what Leeds did as well."

Bielsa opted to change Leeds' attacking line-up in the second half, replacing Patrick Bamford with Eddie Nketiah on 64 minutes.

That decision was met with dissent from sections of the Elland Road crowd and Bielsa explained why he was content to stick with one striker.

"It was a difficult decision to not put both on the pitch," he said.

"But finally I think it was a good choice, because we were not going to play as we played without Dallas and Klich in the middle. If we had left Patrick and Nketiah on the pitch, the midfielder would have been Phillips and Dallas or Klich."

Leeds travel to Birmingham City on Sunday but Bielsa said they do not yet know if Jamie Shackleton or Tyler Roberts will be ready to return to competitive action.