After an extended break of two weeks due to COVID Leeds faced rivals from other the border in Lancashire for a nervous relegation battle six pointer. Still blighted by injuries the players were a long way from being able to find their form. After a number of recent frightening results this one ended in a big hug for Bielsa.
No Phillips, Rodrigo, Bamford or Struijk. Leeds were still looking to Klich (subject to departure rumours) and Roberts (not a proven goal scorer) to fill the gaps. With some players one card from suspension there was still the problem of players holding back to avoid being carded. But we were not so desperate to have to rely on the kids again. Burnley fielded three Leeds alumni – Woods, Taylor and Lennon. Leeds have a good record against Burnley FC.
Leeds strategy was to play Harrison and Raphinha high up on the wings to challenge the Burnley defence. Whilst Burnley resorted to long balls straight down the middle. It was a nervous start with Burnley pressing Leeds in their own half and Leeds losing the ball too easily. It was the same problems. But gradually we gained confidence and tackled back.
Early on Roberts had a harsh yellow card for getting to the ball first and taking the man. This signified the match – fast paced, loose tackling, chopping and changing possession, a little bit championshippy. But Leeds were creating more chances with Raphinha trying long range, Firpo had a clever back heel, Meslier stopping Woods at point blank range, and finally Roberts missing a sitter of a header.
Finally Harrison showed his old talent, collecting a loose ball from Tarkowsky, having a shot blocked by Hennessy in goal and then dinking the deflection. His first goal this season. Leeds ended the first half on a high with Roberts, Firpo trying to double the score, down at the other end Woods kept up the pressure.
A shrewd substitution at half time brought on Cornet for Burnley who levelled the score with a free kick that Roberts in the wall and Meslier maybe could have stopped. For a moment Leeds lost their way. Llorrente also had himself harshly booked for dragging down a Burnley player who dragged him down. That is two players now suspended for the next match.
And then Roberts picked up an injury – another man down – but his replacement – Gelhardt – lifted the fans. Following that James replaced Harrison and immediately James started feeding the ball into Gelhardt
As the match began to lose its way Klich fed a short corner to Dallas on the edge of the box and, with his weak foot, curled the ball through a busy box in to the net. Leeds, who had the majority of possession, the majority of shots on and off target, and winning the tackles. They simply deserved to win.
And to cap it all Gelhardt linked up with James for a header that Hennessy could only parry into his own net. Bielsa had a long big hug with one of his coaches -it felt like the team had turned a corner. Three players on the score sheet at the start of a new year.
Gelhardt is a predator in the box and is a winner with fans in how he always tracks back when he loses the ball. Firpo, Ayling and Forshaw were busy tackling and going forward whilst Burnley went sideways. Raphinha could be briliant if his distribution was more precise. It was a positive performance. Dallas typified it by being all over the pitch.
Man of the match: Stuart Dallas