‘I cannot enjoy this’ says Marcelo Bielsa as Pablo Hernandez nudges Leeds United towards Premier League

Sixteen years of waiting could finally come to an end for Leeds United this week after their breathless 1-0 Championship win at Swansea City.

Just as well, because coach Marcelo Bielsa says he will only enjoy the run-in when his team has booked its place in the Premier League.

Sunday’s victory, secured by Pablo Hernandez’s 89th-minute goal, leaves the Whites needing just four points to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League. They have not played in the top division since the 2003-04 season. If Brentford drop points at home to Preston North End on Wednesday, promotion could be guaranteed in Thursday’s Elland Road derby against relegation-threatened Barnsley.

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Even if the Bees maintain their 100 per cent restart to the season against Alex Neil’s side, the Whites are at Derby County on Sunday for their penultimate match of the elongated 2019-20 campaign.

Pablo Hernandez of Leeds United celebrates his side's winner at Swansea City. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

“We are taking the steps we have to take but of course when you score at the end of the match it’s a higher feeling,” said Bielsa. “But the bigger emotion, we haven’t got that yet.

“I cannot enjoy this. What you feel just is that you are taking a step forward. The only thing I can enjoy is the last objective, if we reach it.”

Hernandez’s goal prompted jubilant celebrations from the few people of a Leeds persuasion allowed in the Liberty Stadium, so much so the goalscorer said he was unable to breathe.

“Afterwards for five seconds I couldn’t breathe with the run, the celebration, all the players with me,” said Hernandez, who came off the bench at half-time.

“But I’m feeling very well (now). I celebrate a lot because I know it’s a very, very important goal. These three points give us a good chance for the next game, the next three games, to reach the target.

“I’m very happy not just for me, for my team-mates, for the staff, for everyone in the club and for the fans. Everybody deserves this.”

The former Swansea player was booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations. With Leeds’s season concluding with the visit of Charlton Athletic, they have three matches to get the win and a draw they need to guarantee promotion. After West Bromwich Albion were held to a draw by Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, seven points will ensure Bielsa’s side go up as champions. The Baggies’ next game is at home to Fulham on Tuesday.

As has been the case more than once since the season resumed after the coronavirus lockdown, the introduction from the bench of Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski turned what had been a game of very few chances.

“Our offensive play improved in the second half,” said Bielsa.

“(Right-back Luke) Ayling had more impact, the right-sided players arrived in big spaces and Pablo moved to this sector as well. On the left even if we didn’t do damage, the pairing of Ali (Alioski) and (Jack) Harrison gave us more movement than in the first half.

“The match was very close (in the opening 45 minutes), very narrow, few chances. As the match progressed we created more chances and in the last 30 minutes I think we deserved to score and to make the difference.”

Hernandez dedicated the win to Leeds’s record appearance-maker Jack Charlton, who died aged 85 on Friday after suffering from lymphoma and dementia.

“I think everyone at Leeds United and all of the fans remember him,” said the Spaniard.

“He is part of the history of this club and I think these three points are for everybody but especially for him and for his memory. I am sure he will help us in the next week’s games from the sky.”

All weekend games were preceded by a minute’s silence for the World Cup winner, who also managed Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday.

Thursday’s Elland Road game could be hugely significant for Barnsley too.

Possible points deductions for Wigan Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday notwithstanding, the Reds are bottom, three points from safety after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Wigan with nine to play for.

Relegation-threatened Hull City, Middlesbrough and Huddersfield Town all lost at the weekend. Sheffield Wednesday’s victory at Queens Park Rangers means they cannot be relegated for footballing reasons, but they are still awaiting the verdict of a Football League misconduct hearing.

The picture is much brighter for Sheffield United, seventh in the Premier League after a 3-0 win over Chelsea.

They will learn today if Manchester City will be banned from European competition next season, making it easier for them to qualify for a first continental campaign.

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