Marcelo Bielsa claimed a bad loss of impetus at bottom-of-the-table Ipswich Town would have no bearing on Leeds United’s play-off campaign after the last day of the season set up a semi-final clash with Derby County.
Leeds signed off their 46-game term with an embarrassing 3-2 defeat at Portman Road, losing to an Ipswich side who had won only four league games all season and saw captain Luke Chambers red-carded on 80 minutes.
A bad error from United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla at the end of normal time gifted on-loan Huddersfield Town forward Collin Qualner a winning goal, robbing Leeds of momentum ahead of this weekend’s first leg against Derby at Pride Park.
Casilla’s mistake was one of a number made by Bielsa’s players, incidents which United’s head coach called “exceptional”, and he stood up for his defence, saying their performance over the course of the season was the reason why Leeds were in contention for promotion.
United let a top-two place slip over the Easter weekend but secured third position despite the defeat to Ipswich, pairing them with sixth-placed Derby.
The EFL has scheduled the first leg of the meeting between third and sixth for 5.15pm on Saturday. The return leg is scheduled to take place at Elland Road on Wednesday, May 15. West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa will contest the other semi-final.
Bielsa said: “Of course today’s performance is not a good one but we have the same ambition as the other teams who are going to play in the play-offs. We can’t say that ambition is linked to the taste you have from your last game, otherwise we would describe us as a team with few chances.
“For the remaining three games the most important thing is character and personality and you don’t build personality after one positive performance. You don’t lose it after one negative performance.
“Today’s performance is an accident. We’re going to forget it right now. From tomorrow we’ll be focused on the next game. I don’t ignore what happened but I know that our team is not described by this game or the result. I’m ashamed to say it.
“What made the difference between the game today and the average we’ve had over the whole season is that we contributed to the goals of the opponent in an exaggerated way. The mistakes were more evident but this is not a feature of our players. It’s an exception.”
Leeds twice recovered from a goal down to pull level through Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas but Kemar Roofe’s loss of footing sent a penalty over the crossbar following Chambers’ dismissal for fouling him inside Ipswich’s box and Quaner was on hand to punish Casilla’s blunder.
Bielsa’s side, who have lost 10 times since Christmas, were already out of the running for the top two but were looking to move forward from an encouraging 1-1 draw with Aston Villa last weekend.
“The reason we haven't been directly promoted is because we missed many chances,” Bielsa said. “One of the reasons we finished third and not lower is because of the quality of our defence.
“The new negative thing about this game is that usually we defend with strength and that was not the case today. I think that’s an exception but I have to admit it. The basis of our team is the defensive structure and if we hadn’t conceded the third goal we would be making a less critical analysis.”