THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN criticised a “soft” performance from Leeds United after a day of errors at Sheffield Wednesday ended in a third straight away defeat.
Christiansen accused his players of showing a brittle side as another difficult away fixture went the way of previous trips to Cardiff City and Millwall.
Leeds were unbeaten in the Championship and heading for the top of the table before their visit to the New Den last month but the club’s failure to take any points from three successive matches away from Elland Road has knocked them down to fifth in the league.
Christiansen watched United implode after an encouraging start at Hillsborough, conceding twice to Gary Hooper before the interval as Wednesday bought under-pressure manager Carlos Carvalhal some breathing space.
Hooper took both of his goals unmarked and from close range and Kieran Lee sealed a 3-0 win for Wednesday with an 81st-minute volley. Carvalhal’s side hit a post and the crossbar in the dying stages as the Sheffield club threatened to turn the afternoon into a rout.
Christiansen, whose side wasted chances of their own, enjoyed a vibrant start to his reign as head coach but a run of six clean sheets has given way to nine concessions in four matches.
Describing his players repeatedly as “soft”, Christiansen said: “If you can give me another word it will be fine but from my point of view we were not strong. When you have to compete in a league like this you have to be ready to compete 100 per cent, 120 per cent, making all the challenges like it’s the last one in the game.
“We went out in the first 20, 25 minutes and did quite well and had our opportunities. After that we conceded two goals too easily. We’re too soft in both boxes when the ball is there and we have to improve a lot in that sense.
“The whole season can’t be clean sheets. You will face good opponents, you will have bad luck some days. Now we’ve conceded too many goals and from my point of view it’s because we’re not strong enough. We’re not competing as we should in these situations.”
Kalvin Phillips and Gjanni Alioski both passed up headed opportunities in the opening stages as Leeds, driven on by Samuel Saiz, made the early running but Hooper’s tap-in on 25 minutes led to a rapid loss of composure and confidence amongst Christiansen’s side.
Wednesday’s Barry Bannan was allowed to dominate the midfield and Christiansen said: “It gave Sheffield Wednesday, a team with good players, the opportunity to play their game and a player like Bannan made the difference.
“He received the ball, he put the passes where he wanted. We spoke about him, that he was a key player we had to stop, but we were not able to do that. Sometimes you’re not stronger than your opponent but you’re focused and 100 per cent sure about what you have to do. You can anticipate situations. In other situations you have to go in strong and this is the difference. You have to read the game and know what to do.
“We created several opportunities and normally, in other games, we score three or four goals. Today it was the post, a good save from their goalkeeper but that’s not enough. We need to be convinced that the ball will arrive and put it in.”
Leeds sit in the Championship’s play-off positions and Christiansen attempted to put recent defeats to Cardiff and Wednesday into context. City lead the division after 11 games while Wednesday have been play-off semi-finalists in both of the last two seasons.
“We’ve faced very good teams,” he said. “Sheffield Wednesday played in the play-offs last year. I don’t like to use the word but they have the budget.
“A player like Bannan would be the best paid player in our team by far. We have to face that but it’s not an excuse because we’ve also played against good teams and won. You need to compete at a high level if you want a good result.”