Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa has refused to criticise Gjanni Alioski for his dive in Tuesday’s win over Reading but insisted he did not want to see the club’s bid for promotion helped by cheating.
Alioski was booked for a dive at the end of the first half of United’s victory at Elland Road after going down inside Reading’s box under a challenge from Tiago Ilori but Bielsa declined to take issue with the winger, saying there was “a difference between not rewarding and not condemning.”
Referee Mike Dean spotted Alioski’s attempt to win a penalty - potentially United’s first in 56 matches, a run stretching back to October last year - and immediately cautioned him for simulation. The incident was Alioski’s last involvement in the game as Bielsa substituted him at half-time.
Leeds went on to turn a goalless fixture their way in the second half, settling the clash through a 60th-minute winner from Stuart Dallas, and Alioski could lose his starting place against Sheffield United on Saturday after effective displays from substitutes Samuel Saiz and Jack Clarke.
Bielsa admitted he was reluctant to be critical of Alioski “because I like him a lot” and insisted the Macedonian international’s actions in the heat of Tuesday’s game should not treated disproportionately.
Asked to comment on the dive, Bielsa said: “I never accept cheating. I always reject cheating. Sometimes people think cheating is a smart thing to do but even if I don’t condemn it, from a personal point of view I wouldn’t want someone cheating. There’s a difference between not rewarding someone and not condemning them.
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“I don’t like to criticise footballers who cheat because when they go through the formation process, there is no sanction of cheating. I don’t imagine myself when I was 12 years old challenging a team-mate because he got a penalty by cheating.
“When you cheat during a football game you can’t compare it with morality in the life of human beings. Usually that’s what we do. I talk too much but my conclusion is that I don’t want to criticise Alioski because I like him a lot.”
Leeds were the victims of a contentious penalty award during a 1-1 draw with Brentford in October when Brentford’s Ollie Watkins appeared to go to ground before colliding with goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
At the time Bielsa declined to criticise the referee responsible, Jeremy Simpson, and today he called urged United’s players to assist match officials by avoiding offences like Alioski’s
“The role of the referee is very difficult,” Bielsa said. “It’s indispensable and at the same time very difficult.
“It’s convenient to help him. Trying to cheat is not something that will help the referee. We have to understand him when he makes mistakes. We don’t have to provoke him and lead him to make mistakes.”