Alex Neil must have been dreading the trip to Elland Road last night. Having seen bits of Bielsa’s side on the TV he will have wanted to make sure they performed more like the League Cup win than the rest of their season. It didn’t take long for Leeds to get a grip of the match, smashing Preston about like a Piñata at a party.
The whole team played well. I did rate Alioksi lower than the rest, a high work-rate but he struggled to make an impact in the final third throughout. The rest were on it. Sweeping moves from back to front, dragging Preston North End players around, up and down and around and round. They didn’t stand a chance and the Liam Cooper goal killed the game because it was quite clear what they were trying to do. Wasting time in the 10th minute won’t get you far in the Championship. Out of ideas.
The second half started a bit better for the away side. The didn’t really create much but had more of the ball. Pontus Jansson led the troops into big tackles and long balls, winning the lot. An offside goal the best Preston could muster and it was a case of when and not if Leeds would get the next goal. Phillips and Klich had a vice-like grip on the game and Saiz was running riot, Harrison hitting the post adding to two one-one ones Klich had passed up in the first-half.
Preston clearly thought that the passing out from the back was what had to be stopped, the key to stopping BielsaBall, but there were two very different problems with that. The first was simple, they couldn’t stop Leeds. Peacock-Farrell was pinging balls left and right, missing centre-backs and finding full-backs. The players at the back were playing their way out of trouble easily, Mateusz Klich actually producing a Zidane turn on the edge of his own box to get out at one point.
The second issue was that Leeds don’t always play out. Take Tyler Roberts’ first goal as the best example. Phillips and Ayling exchanged passes as Leeds did play out then as Preston pressed Phillips swing a perfect ball over the top. Roberts was on it in a flash, racing in to lob Declan Rudd. Preston had put all their eggs in one basket but Bielsa knows the Championship needs that variation. Preston were lucky to only lose 3-0.