Marcelo Bielsa praised his Leeds United players for adapting their game to see the team home for another valuable three points at Bristol City.
Patrick Bamford’s fourth goal in four games proved enough to give the Whites a 1-0 victory in a game they controlled until a nervy last 15 minutes and seven minutes of added time.
While the attacking nature of the side has won them plenty of plaudits - and points - this season it was the defenders who were the heroes this time to keep the home team down to precious few chances.
“It ended up a 50-50 game,” said Bielsa in his after match conference.
“In the first hour we could have scored more, but in the final 15 minutes our opponents could have got a draw.
“At the end they played lot of aerial balls into our box where the consequences of mistakes can be high.
“My team played with a lot of experience in that period when we couldn’t launch counter attacks.
Our goalkeeper Kiko Casilla brings serenity to the team because he does not make mistakes whatever situation he faces.
“Kalvin Phillips did well in a role protecting the back four. When he plays well the level of the team increases greatly.”
The result, combined with a draw for West Brom and a home defeat for Middlesbrough, gave Leeds a handy cushion of nine points on fourth place.
It now looks a two from three race for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship with leaders Norwich and third-placed Sheffield United also winning their games over the weekend, but Bielsa is refusing to write off the teams outside the top three.
He said: “It is a risk talking about even being safe in the top three at this stage. There are so many tough matches ahead.”
Goal hero Bamford injured his knee in the act of scoring and had to come off in the second half while key defensive midfielder Phillips also left the ground with an ankle injury. But Bielsa is hoping they will both be fit to play against Reading on Tuesday night.
He added: “We’ll see by Tuesday how they are. I think they will be available but it wouldn’t be sensible to predict their situations.
“Bamford’s was an impact injury and it prevented him from reaching his maximum speed. It’s not a muscular injury.
“I could have taken the decision (to substitute him) earlier, but for us we need to make movements on the pitch to attack and press the opponent.
“Bamford is very important in this and because he’s so important I didn’t want to take him out of the game. But I saw his performance weakened us a little after the goal.”
Leeds got on the front foot early at Ashton Gate with their unchanged line-up going ahead with the first serious attack of the game.
Bamford was the scorer from close range before colliding with the post, but it was made by the full-backs, Ezgjan Alioski’s great crossfield pass being headed across the area by Luke Ayling.
Good periods of possession followed in the first half with the Whites growing in confidence without being able to put the finishing touches to their approach play.
Jack Harrison hit an effort wide and Bamford saw a shot blocked from outside the box.
Pablo Hernandez played a good low ball in from the right, but Harrison was unable to take advantage.
Bamford was a threat again when he sent a volley over from a cross by former Bristol City player Ayling.
The hosts finally created a chance at the end of the half, but good defending by Pontus Jansson denied Famara Diedhiou.
Into the second United remained in control, again without creating the clear chance as the final ball or cross was not accurate enough.
Bamford had to come off with Tyler Roberts now given the striker’s role and Stuart Dallas on .
Roberts almost made an immediate impact in his new position, but his shot was too close to keeper Max O’Leary after he had been found in space in the box following a brilliant run down the left by Harrison.
City forced Kiko Casilla into his first save as Marlon Pack’s angled low shot was kept out by legs of the United keeper.
Casilla got down well to make sure Bailey Wright did not sneak in at the far post after a free-kick had been flicked on. He did not like the challenge from the home player and squared up to him, going head to head. Referee Peter Bankes ruled he did not headbutt his opponent, however, and Leeds fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Bristol finally exerted some pressure with a succession of long balls into the box, but the Whites saw out the danger well with substitute Barry Douglas doing well to head the ball to safety underneath the crossbar after Jamie Paterson had sent in a dangerous free-kick.
Injury-time saw finger nails chewed, but Leeds saw out their time to earn a vital three points.
Bristol City 0
Leeds United 1
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Sky Bet Championship
Bristol City: O’Leary, Da Silva, Webster, Wright, Brownhill, Diedhiou, O’Dowda, Semenyo, Paterson, Pack, Kalas.
Subs: Marinovic, Kelly, Taylor, Eliasson, Hunt, Weimann, Palmer.
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Alioski, Phillips, Hernandez, Harrison (Douglas), Klich, Roberts, Bamford (Dallas).
Referee: Peter Bankes.