Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa played down the significance of a third successive defeat despite admitting that a young and inexperienced line-up had deserved an FA Cup exit at the hands of Queens Park Rangers.
Leeds were beaten 2-1 in the third round at Loftus Road, ending their involvement in the competition at the first hurdle and turning all attention at Elland Road to Friday night’s Championship clash with Derby County.
Bielsa gambled on a young squad in London, choosing a line-up with an average age of 22 and a bench comprising wholly of academy players, and Jake Bidwell’s header in the 75th minute earned a stronger QPR side a place in the fourth-round draw.
Leeds went into the tie on the back of successive league losses to Hull City and Nottingham Forest, the first time during Bielsa’s reign as head coach that United had lost two games in a row.
The club hold a two-point advantage at the top of the Championship but Bielsa, who is attempting to guide Leeds back to the Premier League for the first time in 15 years, denied that the absence of future cup games from their fixture list was a consolation for exiting the FA Cup early.
He indicated, however, that he had no major concern about Leeds’ current run of results ahead of an important meeting with sixth-placed Derby County at Elland Road.
“I analysed the last two games before this one,” Bielsa said. “For me, the results were not good but the performances were good.
“When you have to explain what you deserve or don’t deserve it’s complicated, especially when we as head coaches explain losses. A lot of the things we say look like excuses but in the last two Championship games I’m convinced not only that we didn’t deserve to lose but that we deserved to win. In today’s game we made too many mistakes. We deserved to lose.
“The first thing we always do is evaluate if we deserved to lose. The second thing is we do is evaluate the negative things and the positive things. We correct the negative things and underline the positive ones.
“The game on Friday is very important but I think the mental state (of the players) will be more linked to the future than the past.”
Leeds fought back from an early penalty from QPR’s Aramide Oteh to equalise quickly through Finnish defender Aapo Halme’s first senior goal but Rangers’ attacking prowess told in the second half as Jordan Cousins and Luke Freeman struck a post either side of Bidwell winning the game with a finish from a corner.
Bielsa said: “I’m never happy when I lose a game, no matter if the consequence are positive or not.
“In the last two games in the league, in spite of the mistakes we made, the positive things made us think we deserved to win. I can’t say the same for today.
“I can’t say I’m not satisfied because our offensive play was good enough but when we look at the dangerous situations of the opponent, they had a common factor: that we lost the ball trying to make offensive passes.”