Marcelo Bielsa admitted he had gambled on Pablo Hernandez’s impact as a substitute after leaving the Spaniard out of Leeds United’s starting line-up at Blackburn Rovers.
Hernandez made his comeback after a seven-game absence as Leeds fought without success to avoid a 2-1 defeat on Saturday, replacing Kemar Roofe for the last 20 minutes at Ewood Park.
The midfielder took to the pitch seconds after Blackburn’s winning goal and failed to force an equaliser in the time that remained.
Hernandez was heavily involved in Leeds’ rousing start to the Championship season and saw results tail off in his absence last month as he recovered from a hamstring problem.
Bielsa, however, had doubts about Hernandez’s ability to complete 90 minutes at Ewood Park and said he believed that fielding him as an impact substitute would aid Leeds later in the match.
Roofe and Gaetano Berardi started on Saturday after extended spells out through injury but both had taken part in a development-squad game against Burnley eight days earlier, a match which Hernandez missed.
Phil Hay's verdict: Blackburn Rovers 2 Leeds United 1 - Solutions needed for Marcelo Bielsa's Whites as 'bad moment' threatens to linger
“He didn’t start because I took into account his absence and all the games he missed,” Bielsa said. “I thought he couldn’t play 90 minutes and he didn’t play before with the Under-23s, which is always good when you come back to the first team.
“I thought we would need him and I thought he would have a bigger influence as a substitute than as a starter. As a matter of fact, when he came on he didn’t have to make efforts defensively and he could focus on attacking.
“The wingers who played the first hour of the game, they had to make efforts to defend. What Pablo did on the pitch was important.”
Roofe’s outing was his first since injuring a calf during the international break in early September, a set-back came after a series of performances which earned him the player of the month award for August.
Blackburn Rovers 2 Leeds United 1: Bielsa concedes Whites are in a "bad moment" following defeat
Bielsa initially employed him as a right winger at Ewood Park but repositioned him twice before ending a quiet outing immediately after Rovers’ second goal.
“When he started the game as a winger he had a positive influence, he combined well with his team-mates,” Bielsa said. “Then he played as a nine and he was less influential.
“In the second half he played as a right winger again but as he had made efforts before, it was harder for him taking into account the weeks he missed.”
United’s head coach, however, denied that Blackburn’s dominance of 50-50 challenges and second balls had been a factor in Leeds’ second defeat of the campaign.
“The number 10 (Danny Graham), number six (Richie Smallwood) and number 29 (Corry Evans) are more prepared than our players for the 50-50 balls,” Bielsa said. “Our players are better when we have to keep the ball and play with the ball. The opponent is better for the 50-50 balls.
“It doesn’t mean what the rival did is wrong and they tried to find situations that allowed them to use their skills. We tried to do the same. I don’t think we lost the game because of that.”