Marcelo Bielsa suffered the first defeat of his reign as Leeds United head coach but insisted his side should have avoided an early Carabao Cup exit after a 2-0 loss to Preston North End at Elland Road.
Leeds failed to overcome a Preston team reduced to 10 men by Ryan Ledson’s 30th-minute red card as a first-minute penalty from Daniel Johnson and a stunning finish from Brandon Barker at the end of the first half guided North End into round three.
United were stung by the concession of a penalty with just 45 seconds on the clock and struggled to piece together a fluent performance with a line-up showing nine changes from Saturday’s Championship win at Norwich City.
Bielsa had earned five wins and a draw from his opening six matches in charge but his players were punished for critical errors and a lack of quality service from out wide in a tie which brought them no fewer than 15 corners.
Bielsa’s attention is turning rapidly to Friday’s top-of-the-table meeting with Middlesbrough at Elland Road but he expressed disappointment after exiting the League Cup.
“It's painful to be out of a competition,” Bielsa said. “I would have liked to continue in this cup.
“Football is performance but it’s also about what you deserve. Sometimes we only evaluate what you get and we don’t evaluate what you deserve. My conclusion is that we didn’t play well but I think the result shouldn't have been a loss for us.
“Usually when we have three offensive actions we score one goal. Today we had 12 and we didn't score any. The proportions between offensive actions and efficiency was not good. The opponent had four offensive actions and scored twice.
“We didn't connect crosses with a man in the box. When we were 11 versus 11 it was hard for us to build from the back and create dangerous actions. We could have avoided the goals we conceded. We had a lot of possession and we played 11 versus 10 for a long time but we didn't reflect this superiority with clear offensive actions.”
Bielsa, who has resisted calls to sign additional cover at centre-back in this transfer window, replaced young defender Conor Shaughnessy with Samuel Saiz at half-time in a tactical switch as Leeds trailed 2-0.
The United boss refused to criticise any of his less experienced players, saying: “I think they are ready to play. You can't analyse Pearce, Shaughnessy or Shackleton in the way you evaluate Phillips, Saiz or Jansson.”