Marcelo Bielsa saluted the ambition of his players but promised more improvement to come after Leeds United lit up the opening weekend of the Championship season with a masterful defeat of Stoke City.
Leeds outclassed the Championship’s title favourites in a 3-1 win at Elland Road, marking Bielsa’s first competitive game as head coach with an immense performance.
Stoke conceded twice before half-time to Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez and were picked off by Liam Cooper’s header early in the second half, five minutes after Benik Afobe had pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.
Bielsa gambled on a starting line-up including just one new signing, leaving £7m striker Patrick Bamford on the bench, but his selection paid off impressively as Stoke succumbed to the intensity of Leeds’ football.
“Our players were very ambitious,” Bielsa said.
“They put in a great physical effort. We had the ambition and the hope to win. My team took risks when they were moving the ball.
“But our team has to grow and get better. At the end of the game we didn’t try to link defence and attack on the ground. We didn’t move the ball as good as we wanted at times. We could not get the ball back from the opposition. All those aspects we need to correct.”
Leeds made a beeline for Bielsa’s signature after deciding to sack former head coach Paul Heckingbottom in May, offering the legendary Argentinian a seven-figure salary
The quality of Leeds’ performance against Stoke raised the question of how close the club can go to promotion this season but Bielsa said: “It’s too soon to make any analysis, either positive or negative. It (promotion) is an expression of desire and we have to support this expression over 46 games. It’s a hope but it wouldn’t be good to express a point of view.”
Stoke boss Gary Rowett said several members of his expensively-assembled squad had been taken by surprise by the reality of the Championship.
“That was nowhere near the standard that’s required to do well in this division and it’ll be a real shock to some of our players,” Rowett said.
“You could see that when Leeds get control of the ball, the movement off the front was a lot quicker and more varied than last season. He (Bielsa) is a hugely experienced manager so you’d expect the nuances to show, even in the first game.”