Marcelo Bielsa blamed himself for a tactical error and admitted Leeds United had paid a “high price” for it after their unbeaten start to the Championship season ended at the hands of Birmingham City.
Leeds held onto first place in the table but tasted a first league defeat for the first time at Elland Road as two first-half goals from Che Adams earned Garry Monk’s Birmingham a 2-1 win.
Adams scored twice in the first half-hour, taking advantage of a goalkeeping mistake by Bailey Peacock-Farrell and a ragged display from Bielsa’s team.
Bielsa criticised his own decision to field a four-man defence rather than a back three having stepped in and altered his system by substituting holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips in the 34th minute.
Phillips - an impressive part of Bielsa’s team this term - had been subjected to the same treatment in last month’s 2-2 draw at Swansea City, replaced just 28 minutes into his 100th club appearance, but Bielsa took responsibility for what he described as a “tactical mistake”.
“The proposal I chose for this game was not the right one,” he said. “Kalvin Phillips had to assume the consequences but I made a mistake. In the last hour of the game we dominated the opponent, more than dominated the opponent, and we created chances to score.
“We were better than our opponent but we should have demonstrated that by getting another result. Instead of having eight chances to score, we should have had 20.
“It's hard to analyse a game and talk about what you deserve when the performance is not good. To make conclusions about this loss, I would take into account the mistake I made at the beginning. Because when I corrected the mistake, the rival had already scored two goals. Our team was less confident. It's a high price to pay for a tactical mistake.
“We couldn't make the link between attack and defence because Phillips didn't receive the ball. So I decided (Stuart) Dallas would play in the role of (Luke) Ayling and Ayling would play in the defensive line of three. It gave a good balance to the team.
“That's why I say that Phillips suffered from this decision. He's not responsible for the problems our team had in the first half hour.”
Leeds remain above second-placed Middlesbrough on goal difference despite Birmingham claiming their first victory of the season.
Asked how he expected Leeds to respond to the result, Bielsa said: “We have to correct what was wrong. We have to recover from the mistakes we made but it’s an exercise that we do after every game.
“Even though the state of mind is very important in football, you could see a positive state of mind didn’t allows us to play the kind of game we wanted to play. At the same time, the feelings of this loss won’t prevent us from getting a good result in the next game.”
Monk, who managed Leeds during the 2016-17 season before resigning and starting an ill-fated spell in charge of Middlesbrough, was abused by the crowd at Elland Road but talked up Leeds’ chances of promotion after the final whistle.
“I'm very proud of the players,” he said. “They deserved that. It's been an accumulation of frustration because everyone who's watched us, we've outplayed some really good teams. We’re very unfortunate not to have our first couple of wins already.
“To come here against the league leaders and the best team in the league so far, I thought the players were magnificent. But (with Leeds), all the signs are that this season is the season for them. I’m sure they'll go on from strength to strength. They’ve brought in a high-calibre manager and it’s great to see.”