August 22, 2018
This was not the suffocating performance or the kind of masterpiece Leeds supporters have already come to expect under Marcelo Bielsa but his remarkable revolution lives on after Pablo Hernández rescued a draw at his former parish to move top of the Championship.
They twice allowed Oli McBurnie, the striker released by Leeds as a boy, to fire Swansea in front but Kemar Roofe’s fourth goal of the season plus Hernández’s late equaliser prevented the Bielsa bubble from bursting.
This proved thoroughly entertaining fare, with both teams remaining unbeaten after Leeds rallied at the end of a seesawing second half, recovering from a sloppy start.
Bielsa challenged his players to continue in the same high-octane, swaggering style that had served them so well but things did not go entirely to plan here. As Bielsa said, it was a Leeds performance with defects. After losing his captain, Liam Cooper, to a muscle injury at the end of the warm-up, Bielsa promoted the 18-year-old Jamie Shackleton into the starting lineup for first start in an unorthodox right-back role.
Things got worse before they got better. After 27 minutes, Bielsa ruthlessly hooked Kalvin Phillips, booked, given the runaround by Bersant Celina and at fault for Swansea’s slick opener. The pace of Celina and Barrie McKay had fuelled the attack after Leroy Fer seized the ball on the edge of Swansea’s penalty area. McKay faced up Gaetano Berardi and played in McBurnie, who latched on to the ball and swiftly prodded home.
“We didn’t defend well but there are justifications for that, because very soon, of the five players who build our defensive structure, we lost three of them and this was an obstacle,” Bielsa said, speaking through his translator. “The development of the game after Phillips got booked did not offer the defensive security that we needed to prevent Phillips from being booked again. In order to attack, you have to defend well.”
On the touchline, Graham Potter applauded what he was seeing, Bielsa not so much. “We had a good intensity to our play,” the Swansea head coach said. “We had a good idea of what we wanted to do and we also had courage as well. Overall, really proud of the players and happy we’ve taken a step forward.”
Swansea not only caged Leeds but excelled themselves, with Joe Rodon, the 20-year-old defender, going close to doubling the lead, nodding his downward header on to the roof of the net.
Just before the break, Lewis Baker, Phillips’s replacement, sprayed the ball wide to Shackleton and after driving into the box the teenager switched on the afterburners, accelerating beyond Martin Olsson before laying the ball on for Roofe to score from close range.
Bielsa introduced Jack Harrison, the Manchester City loanee, at half-time to inject some much-needed energy down the left flank. But Harrison found himself back-pedalling rather than pressing forward, immediately forced to repel Kyle Naughton before Olsson, having sped past Hernández towards the corner flag, teed up McBurnie, who evaded Berardi before calmly glancing a free header into the corner of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal.
What preceded Swansea’s second was a worrying sight: the defender Mike van der Hoorn waltzing through the spine of the Leeds midfield, dragging his Swansea team-mates with him.
Leeds were straight back to square one, Bielsa crouched on the edge of his technical area, frantically trying to pull his team back into shape. A studious thinker, he is hardly one to roll the dice but his final change arrived just after hour mark, with Patrick Bamford replacing Roofe.
Peacock-Farrell kept Leeds in the game with a fingertip save to deny McBurnie a hat-trick, while Fer could have rounded things off but got himself tangled.
Leeds continued to probe as Swansea panicked, retreating deeper and deeper. When Bamford fooled Van der Hoorn on the touchline, the striker advanced before laying the ball on for Hernández to stroke home and send Leeds top.
“We could have won this game, we could have lost it too,” Bielsa said. “We have played just a small part of the competition. I know it’s an important position to be in the table but it doesn’t mean a lot.”