Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds United defeat by West Ham United, Charlie Cresswell's debut and Raphinha latest

Marcelo Bielsa says his Leeds United side did not deserve to lose 2-1 to West Ham United at Elland Road.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 25th September 2021, 6:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 25th September 2021, 6:06 pm
BIG CHARACTER - Marcelo Bielsa liked what he saw from Premier League debutant Charlie Cresswell in the defeat by West Ham United. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

The Whites went ahead in the first half through Raphinha, who posed huge problems for the Hammers throughout until coming off having complained of difficulty. Fresh from his call up to the Brazil squad, Raphinha scored a fine goal, hit the post and looked unplayable on the counter attack, having recovered sufficiently from a hip problem to play at Elland Road.

But West Ham stayed in the game, survived a number of scares and levelled through a Junior Firpo own goal with 23 minutes remaining. And as the game neared stoppage time the influential Michail Antonio was found by Declan Rice and produced the winner with a cool finish.

It was not a result winless-in-six Leeds' performance merited, said Bielsa.

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"They are two teams with different realities," he said.

"I don't think that we deserved to lose. But I imagine that the opponents' manager thinks that they deserved to win. When a team finds themselves in a good moment, they obtain these rewards and when a team accumulates negative results you don't find a lot of things that they deserve."

In the second half Leeds were unable to keep play in the right area of the pitch, making it more likely that West Ham could fight back and win it, and Bielsa felt they were too focused on trying to protect the result.

"Our project of play was the same," said Bielsa.

"When you conserve a result you stop doing some things that are necessary to avoid losing what you have obtained. There are responses which are sometimes natural, trying to hold on to what you have got. We spend too much time defending and not enough time in the opponents' half and defend too close to the goalkeeper, it is likely that the opponents chances to score increase."

Leeds sit third from bottom in the Premier League with three points from six games. Bielsa admits the team's reality can have an impact on the mood of the team, but insists performances can be the antidote.

"A succession of bad results, the absence of points, the position in the table they are all factors that affect the morale of any team," he said.

"When the performance is not negative, the recovery is more probable."

WIth Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Luke Ayling out injured and Pascal Struijk suspended, Bielsa handed a Premier League debut to 19-year-old Charlie Cresswell. The teen started in midweek against Fulham in the Carabao Cup and impressed, but the West Ham game pitted him against the in-form and vastly experienced Antonio.

Bielsa liked what he saw from the Under 23s captain.

"It was a performance of a lot of personality, a lot of character, very few errors, imposing himself in a very, very difficult game against a striker who is very difficult to neutralise," said the head coach.

"For a young player who took a long time to earn this opportunity, he did so against Fulham."

Raphinha also came in for praise.

"He let us know it was becoming difficult for him to stay on the pitch," said Bielsa.

"Throughout the whole week he was recovering from the knock he received against Newcastle. He played a great game as long as he could stay on the field."