|Norwich City 0 v 3 Leeds United|
Saturday, 25th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Bielsa refuses to get carried away
Sunday, 26th Aug 2018 12:31 by Tim Whelan
Marcelo Bielsa singled out four players for praise after our emphatic win over Norwich City, but he knows that we’ve still got a long way to go this season.
In the post-match press conference our Argentinian supremo said “We needed the individual performances of Alioski, Phillips and Douglas. The performance of Jansson was very positive too.” Which was all the more remarkable as only one of those four players had been on the field at the end of Tuesday night’s game at Swansea, while Leeds fought back to claim a point from that match.
Phillips had been overrun in midfield in midweek, while Alioski might have lost a bit of confidence after washing out his blonde hairdo in favour of a more brunette number. But yesterday they both reacted well to having been substituted in that game, while Jansson came in for his first league start of the season due to Liam Cooper’s injury.
And it was Jansson who was first to make a decisive contribution yesterday, putting his body on the line to make a couple of vital blocks as Norwich had the better of the opening 20 minutes. But the Canaries can be vulnerable on the counter, and Leeds swept downfield to take the lead in the 21st.
A deep cross from Hernandez found Alioski, who was allowed a free header as the trailing Pinto failed to get off the floor. Krul could only palm the ball out to Klick, and the Pole had time to pick his spot and place it past the defender on the line into the corner of the net.
The second came from a move Leeds built from the back, starting from a throw-in well into our own half. From the TV replay I’ve counted 11 passes as we moved upfield, without a Norwich player even coming close to making a challenge before Alioski fired powerfully past Krul from a narrow angle.
In the closing stages of the first half it was Phillips’ turn to make a couple of vital interceptions as Norwich had another good spell, the second to deflect a powerful shot from Pukki out for a corner. But we managed to preserve our two goal lead till the break and then took completely control of the game in the second half.
In the 67th the third goal arrived as Hernandez was plenty of given space to turn and make his way into the box and curl a shot into the far corner. Then a few minutes later Saiz tried a similar effort as a clearance came back to him on the edge of the area, but this time Hanley was able to get his head in the way of the shot.
In the closing stages Peacock-Farrell saved from a free kick and Phillips was once again on hand to block a shot from the rebound, as we refused to relax our grip even though a goal for Norwich would have been too late to get them back into the contest.
Bielsa later explained this determination to hold onto our clean sheet . “To extend the way you play during the longest time possible is the goal of any team, is a goal for any team.” And he was of course delighted with the improvement over the performance in midweek. “Against Swansea, the team didn’t have the same performance. The performance against Swansea decreased, but today it increased.”
Norwich boss Daniel Farke described Leeds as “at this moment 100 per cent the best side in the league.” And he claimed “We should be satisfied with how we dominated the game. We suffered a little on set-pieces but the game was a satisfaction. What the opponent got was not because of our concessions. We never conceded moments to them.”
But that’s been contradicted by Norwich fan Gary Gowers on myfootballwriter.com, who said of Farke “he did himself few favours by trying to convince Chris Goreham and the Radio Norfolk listeners that despite losing it was good that City were able to play on the ‘same level’ as Leeds.
Many Norwich fans voted with their feet and left Carrow Road well before the end of the game, with more than a few of those who remained shouting abuse at their beleaguered manager (‘what the Farke is going on?’, perhaps). Though at least they can comfort themselves with the thought that things are even worse down at local rivals Ipswich, who are now rock bottom of the Championship.
Despite our excellent start, Bielsa is refusing to get carried away just yet. “We’ll manage the expectations in the same way we did before. We only played 10 percent of the Championship and it is not convenient to draw any conclusion.” Which sounds very sensible to those of us with painful memories of how we faded after a similar good start only 12 months ago.
And we could be missing a key player for a few games after an injury to Pablo Hernandez. Bielsa couldn’t say how long the Spaniard would be out for, but said “It’s obvious that Hernandez has been very important for our team. He is the player who has the best regularity and he’s the player with the biggest influence in the control of the games. He’s a very intelligent player.”
Time will tell whether Leeds have the strength in depth to secure promotion, but we’re already three points clear of third place and top on goal difference. It’s annoying that Middlesbrough managed to snatch a win with a last minute goal against WBA, but the next game will give us the chance to put them in their place. Roll on Friday night.
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