Worrying warm-up sights, Stuart Dallas' cheerleading and technical area joy - what you missed in Leeds United's win at Swansea

There are things Leeds United, almost on the top rung of the Championship escape ladder, could do without right now.

Monday, 13th July 2020, 7:28 am
WINNER - Pablo Hernandez was mobbed after scoring the goal that gave Leeds United a late 1-0 win over Swansea City in Wales. Pic: PA

The sight of Ben White down on the turf, having been caught accidentally by Mateusz Klich in the warm-up at Swansea's Liberty Stadium, is one of them.

Brighton loanee White has been nothing short of sensational in his debut Championship season, so his ability to get up and walk off the pain was a relief for the visitors, chiefly Klich one would imagine.

It was the first of two worrying moments before the game had even got underway.

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As players - all wearing RIP Big Jack messages on their shirts in honour of club legend Jack Charlton - took part in the customary shooting drills, winger Jack Harrison paused after his first effort and grimaced, reaching down to feel his right foot.

He shot again, with the same result, flexing his standing foot and looking none too happy about it. He spoke with medical staff, one of whom retreated down the tunnel and returned with something for the pain.

Harrison was able to shake off whatever ailed him and proceeded to run himself into the ground during the dramatic and hugely significant 1-0 win in Wales.

It was always likely to be a tight game, few would have predicted the kind of encounter Leeds enjoyed last time out when they thumped Stoke 5-0, yet many might have had an inkling that ex Swansea man Pablo Hernandez, who looked utterly confounded by the substitute seating arrangements as he wandered out to take his place in the stand, would have a big say in the result.

As the starting XI emerged, it was Tyler Roberts who was to take the Hernandez role from the off. The youngster offered up a prayer of some sort as he took to the turf.

Leeds could have done with some devine intervention in the first half but it failed to materialise. Swansea were difficult to break down. It was another case of a team sitting deep, remaining disciplined and blocking the Whites' route to goal. The first quarter brought little in the way of suggestions that Leeds would find a way through. Going direct wasn't the way. "Don't force it," chided Barry Douglas from the bench, as a long ball drifted harmlessly through to Freddie Woodman in the Swans goal.

Marcelo Bielsa ignored the first 'drinks break' his team were offered in Wales, during that disappointing first game back after the three month suspension, but he's since decided to use them the same way everyone else is. He gathered his troops to offer some tactical advice and ended his team talk by calling for more movement ahead of the ball.

"Move," he shouted as the players retook their positions. "Klich, Bamford, Tyler," were the three he was speaking to in particular.

Goalless at the break, the game was a frustrating affair for Leeds and everyone in the stadium could see what was coming. Bielsa, who had cast his eye behind the Leeds goal to where three of his substitutes were warming up, moved towards his fitness coach Benoit Delaval and evidently wanted to see more movement off the field too. Delaval put his fingers to his teeth, whistled to grab the attention of the trio of replacements and signalled that they should begin ramping up their efforts. Two of them, Hernandez and Gjanni Alioski, came on after the break.

Roberts and Stuart Dallas were withdrawn, but the latter in particular took it upon himself to remain a presence in the fixture. He was the cheerleader in chief in the stands, encouraging Harrison and Alioski on the nearest flank, letting pal and captain Liam Cooper know he was right behind him.

The second half action was encouraging too, with Hernandez making Leeds a real threat on the right flank and drawing Swansea's attention, which in turn opened up space wide left.

There was a real intensity to the fixture, even without a glut of goalmouth action and the technical area was a hive of activity. Bielsa paced up and down, his coaching staff were reminded constantly that only two were to stand up at once and they all showed how much the result meant with their reactions to every challenge, disputed decision or missed chance.

When, finally, the winning goal came in the 89th minute, there was an eruption of joy in the technical area. Substitutes and the substituted sprinted to join the celebrations, coaching staff embraced and Bielsa quickly refocused in order to keep what he had gained.

Never has his attention to detail or his desire to control and limit the variables been as evident as it was when he rushed towards the halfway line to halt a substitution to which he had previously given his blessing. Barry Douglas, who was stripped, prepared and just two seconds or so from stepping onto the playing surface, was stopped in his tracks.

"Stop. Wait. No," came Bielsa's demand. He ushered Gaetano Berardi forward instead, later explaining that the tactical change Leeds had expected from Swansea - a front three - was actually going to feature Andre Ayew as a second striker. Ayew's aerial prowess needed to be combatted and Berardi was the man to do it, Bielsa reasoned, when explaining his split-second decision after the game.

Douglas went back to the bench, clearly more than a little disappointed at not being able to contribute on the pitch, Berardi went on and the result was, a little while later, confirmed.

The full-time whistle brought more celebrations, more hugs in the technical area and smiles all round, from the visitors at least. Ayew exchanged angry words with someone and engaged in a one-sided scrap with Leeds' waterbottles, connecting with his boot as he stomped off down the tunnel.

Victor Orta, whose vocal support is yet to waver in behind-closed-doors, let the players know again just how much he appreciated the result and received waves, grins and raised fists from Diego Flores, Illan Meslier, Kalvin Phillips and Luke Ayling.

The satisfaction the club's representatives in Wales took from the result was perhaps as much to do with its meaning for the Championship table - Brentford remain six points behind and Leeds need four points now from three games - as it was to do with the manner in which the victory came. Bielsa has often lauded this team's character and they showed it once again.

Brentford, with their seven wins in a row, have given the ladder a good shake but Leeds look as sure footed as ever and they're only looking up.