Marcelo Bielsa denied that a sore defeat to Sheffield United would be decisive in the promotion race but admitted Leeds United could not hide from an “important” loss at Elland Road.
A second-half goal from Chris Basham handed Sheffield United a 1-0 win and the initiative in the fight for a top-two finish as Leeds paid the price for missing chances earlier in the game.
Patrick Bamford, Jack Harrison and Tyler Roberts all failed to open the scoring - Roberts striking a post early in the second half - before Billy Sharp pounced on an error by Liam Cooper and set up Basham to beat Kiko Casilla on 71 minutes.
Casilla was then sent off in injury-time for a professional foul on Sharp outside his box. Leeds finished the game with Pontus Jansson in goal having already used three substitutes.
Sheffield United’s victory landed a major blow at the top of the division, lifting them above Leeds into second place with eight games left.
Bielsa said: “Nobody can say that it’s a crucial result because there are still 24 points at stake. You can’t say that this result is crucial but at the same time, we can’t deny the importance of this game. The game was very important and we lost it.
“I don't want to underestimate the victory of the opponent but if we analyse the game we can't be unsatisfied. We're disappointed with the result and if the opinion is that we deserved to draw, I have a different opinion.
“What happened today (missed chances) has happened many times in past games. We had three times more chances to score than the opponent and they scored the goal. After undergoing so many situations like today, I don't feel I have the right to explain how unfair the result is.”
Bielsa insisted Casilla had been harshly dismissed having taken down Sharp with covering defenders around him.
The goalkeeper will serve a one-game ban during Leeds’ next game at home to Millwall unless United decide to appeal.
Bielsa, however, refused to criticise referee David Coote for failing to red-card Blades right-back George Baldock for a bad foul on Jansson in the first half.
“If we make a link between a decision which could have gone for us, you might think that with different decisions from the referee the game would have gone in our favour,” he said.
“But taking into account all that happened, we had all the resources to get a different result. That’s why we can’t say the referee had an impact.
“In this kind of game, we prepared ourselves. We prepared well enough not to depend on the referee, luck or the opponent.”
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder described match-winner Basham as “absolutely useless” in the early parts of a frenetic derby and admitted the victory had come “against the run of play a little bit”.
“He’s done well to be the match-winner because he was coming off after 25 minutes,” Wilder said. “He was absolutely useless.
“I was going to do what their manager does and drag him off but we kept him in it and I think he epitomised what a Sheffield United player is.
“It’s a great victory but not a great performance but I’ve said all along that I’m not going to be embarrassed about winning against the run of play a little bit.
“It was a tough afternoon, a tough test for us and I’m delighted that against the run of play we’ve come away with a result.”