Liverpool rightful winners says Marcelo Bielsa who absolves Rodrigo of blame for Leeds United defeat
Marcelo Bielsa absolved Rodrigo of blame for Leeds United's 4-3 defeat to Premier League champions Liverpool, after the striker's foul gave away the penalty from which the Reds got their winner.
The Whites' record signing came off the bench with 62 minutes played in a thrilling season opener at Anfield but his debut will be remembered for a clumsy challenge in the area on Fabinho that handed Mo Salah a chance to claim a hat-trick and three points from the spot.
That goal came in the 88th minute and although Leeds fought to the end, they had to settle for glorious defeat having looked good for a point on their return to the top flight.
Bielsa, who said he can never be happy when his side lose, accepted that Liverpool deserved to win but felt Leeds had their moments.
"We could have avoided the defeat but Liverpool were the rightful winners," he said.
"We played according to our style, we struggled to impose ourselves in a lot of periods in the game. What we're looking to do is to beat our rivals playing in a style we would like to impose.
In that sense there are periods when Liverpool dominated. There were loads of periods when the game was even. In some moments we were able to be superior. On the whole Liverpool were superior."
Neither defence was particularly impressive in a wild first half that ended 3-2 to the hosts.
Leeds levelled after the break with a beautiful goal from midfielder Mateusz Klich, who showed his significance in Bielsa's system, contributing mightily in defence and attack.
"He is a very important player for this team," said the Argentine.
"He has to defend in a similar way to Phillips. He attacks in a similar manner to Pablo Hernandez. There are very few players with those characteristics, especially when you have to defend against Keita or Wijnaldum, or when you have to attack against van Dijk or Henderson or Fabinho."
Bielsa's main conclusion after his first taste of the Premier League was that errors equal goals.
Leeds were missing captain Liam Cooper at centre-half, meaning Robin Koch made his debut alongside youngster Pascal Struijk, whose prior league experience amounted to five Championship appearances.
Koch was harshly penalised for handball for Salah's first penalty and the defensive duo came under intense pressure, but did settle into the game.
"Cooper is our captain," said Bielsa.
"It can never go without notice when you're missing your captain. But clearly Pascal was one of the better players in our team today. "Koch had a satisfactory performance."
It was an attacker who made the mistake for Liverpool's winner, Rodrigo's outstretched leg taking down Fabinho, Salah doing the rest from the spot.
Bielsa did not associate the result with the new-boy's actions, however.
"It is a contingency of the game," he said.
"There is no direct relationship between the foul by Rodrigo and the result. You cannot put the blame of a defeat on an error that one player made. Prior to the penalty Liverpool had chances to score also, it didn't necessarily have to come from the penalty."
Offensively, Leeds looked good going forward and created chances other than the ones they took and while Bielsa wanted more of a goalscoring threat when they got into the final third, he ultimately focused on what happened at the other end of the pitch when reviewing the result.
"To be able to score three is a positive thing," he said.
"We should have created more danger when we attacked. We were very efficient but we didn't create enough goalscoring opportunities. We also can't ignore that we conceded four goals. A lot of those goals could have been avoided. You can't predict football. But there are situations you know are going to happen. Just because you know they're going to happen doesn't give you the security that you can stop them from happening. But when you concede goals to opportunities you feel could have been avoided it makes the disappointment greater."
Leeds made a big impression in their Premier League return, not least on Jurgen Klopp who called them 'special' after the match, but Bielsa could not allow himself to enjoy any plaudits in the immediate aftermath.
"I can never be happy in defeat," he said.