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Bolton Wanderers 0 v 1 Leeds United
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 15th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Bielsa acknowledges it was a narrow victory at Bolton
Sunday, 16th Dec 2018 21:28 by Tim Whelan

We might have been expected a comfortable victory over a Bolton Wanderers side who had dropped down the table with only one win in 17 games, but both managers felt it was a game when we could easily have dropped two points.

Marcelo Bielsa said “It was a deserved win, but a hard one. We had the possession but we didn’t create enough chances to score. With the possession we had, we should have created more chances- but this wasn’t the case. I felt that if we didn’t concede any goals that we would have the opportunity to score one."

In the early stages it looked as though Leeds would sweep Bolton aside, producing a series of neat moves close to the Bolton goal, the best of them ending with a header from Hernandez that Alnwick did well to tip over the bar. But we seemed to lose our grip on the game, perhaps with the conditions affecting our usual passing football, but a poor Bolton side seemed to be coming back into it as half-time approached.

Even the Leeds section of the crowd seemed to be a little subdued, even though a sparse home crowd had left it to us to make most of the atmosphere, apart from the usual group in the corner to our right. But the bloke next to me assured me that his blue Leeds Christmas hat had a 100% record in the games he’d worn it to, so things would be all right.

But it’s more likely that the eventual victory owed more to the two changes made by our Argentinian supremo. Baker had started the game looking keen to impress, but confidence seemed to drain from him after he’d given the ball away a couple of times, leading to dangerous Bolton breaks. Thankfully he was put out of his misery at the break when he was replaced by Jack Clarke.

Clarke was excellent once again, cutting in from the wing and going past defenders to put some dangerous crosses into the box. And the second decisive move from the coach was to bring Patrick Bamford on for Roofe just after the hour. And he was to score with his first touch after Leeds swept down the field after a Bolton attack, and Bamford was played in by an excellent ball from Hernandez.

Bielsa naturally praised the striker after his first appearance since August. “For Patrick, the goal is very good for his confidence. He’s worked very hard to gain back his sports fitness and for us to have two strikers and goal-scorers in our team is very important. Patrick can be very important in the second half of the season”.

Bamford ran straight over to the medical team after scoring, and paid tribute to them after the game. “It was nice, it has been a long time coming. I have been a bit lucky, I wasn’t supposed to be back until January and the medical team around me at Leeds have done wonders. The reason I am back and playing is because of them and what they have made me do”.

“It was hard in the conditions and in these types of games though and we just had to wait for that chance. Fortunately it fell to me, it was a really good ball from Pablo Hernandez and then it was down to the rest of the team to grind it out. I was making the runs and I knew if I did that Pablo or one of the other boys would find me. As soon the ball came I wanted to hit it early so the goalkeeper wouldn’t be set and I knew if it was on target he wouldn’t be able to react.”

Once we’d got in front it looked like the only was Bolton would equalise would be if we gave it away by fannying around close to our goal rather than clearing the ball, as the wet conditions were hardly conducive to passing out from the back. This so nearly came to pass as another misplaced backpass from Forshaw went wide of it’s intended target and Noone and Phillips collided as they went for the loose ball.

Phillips didn’t intend to foul Noone, who got his body between Phillips and the ball as our man tried to deal with the danger, but Phillips didn’t seem to get a touch on the ball. So it’s no surprise that Bolton boss Phil Parkinson was complaining they didn’t get a penalty when he spoke to his club’s official website.

“We probably should have had a penalty, but I will leave that for everyone else to decide. It does look a penalty and I may get the referee and ask him. Nooney has gone in and got the wrong side of the lad, with the defender unaware of his presence. He has clipped him and everybody knows we were unlucky to not get the decision and it may have given us a lift that we needed.”

And Parkinson echoed Bielsa’s thoughts that it was a close run thing. “I thought we gave everything in a very tight game tonight. A moment of quality has separated the two teams, as they broke away and it was a clinical finish from Bamford. I thought we pressed them well at times, but when we won the ball back, we gave it back far too quickly. When we didn’t find that pass on the break, it hurt us.”

“To give yourself a breather against teams of Leeds’ quality, we just needed that bit of calmness when we were on the ball and we lacked that. On a positive note, we have restricted a good Leeds team to virtually nothing but the seven million pound player who came on has proved that moment of quality that separated the two sides.”

There was still one more scare to survive, with a last gasp Bolton header being cleared off the line. It was at the other end from us, and it’s not clear on the TV highlights who the defender was, but it might have been Phillips. As we held on I saw Bielsa bitterly complaining to the fourth official that injury time had gone beyond the four minutes that had been announced, though this was probably due to the very leisurely stroll that Hernandez undertook to leave the field as he was substituted by Halme.

At last it was the final whistle, and it was our turn to go out and get soaked by the driving rain, while the players went off for a well-earned shower. I’d have been disappointed if we’d dropped points against a club that is clearly heading for very difficult times. And we didn’t, so the man next to me in the seats could praise his lucky blue hat, and he was right, it didn’t let us down.

So the winning run keeps going. That’s now five wins in games that could well have been drawn, and in all of them there has been one key moment that has gone in our favour. This time it was Bolton’s penalty appeal. Long may it continue, though the next game will be a far more difficult proposition, against an improving Aston Villa, so the overall performance might have to be a lot better than this.

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