LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa has hailed the belief running through his squad after returning to the automatic promotion places at the end of a topsy-turvy afternoon at Elland Road.
Pablo Hernandez’s double and a rare goal from Luke Ayling were enough to clinch a 3-2 victory over Millwall after twice falling behind to the London club.
Leeds also missed a first-half penalty when Patrick Bamford’s weak effort was saved by David Martin to leave Bielsa proclaiming: “I felt it in the heart”.
The victory was enough to leapfrog Sheffield United, beaten 3-2 at home by Bristol City, and join leaders Norwich City in the top two.
“Some days we have to spend more time than we usually would need to spend to get what we deserve,” said Bielsa. “We never feel we are going to lose.
“We insist on trying to change the result by keeping our style. When a team has the skill to overcome so much adversity they deserve admiration.”
United, despite the stirring finale that brought two goals in the final 20 minutes, were far from at their best against Millwall.
But in Hernandez Leeds boasted the game’s outstanding player as the Spaniard took his goal tally for the season to 12.
Bielsa added: “Pablo is a leader. He is not a leader who likes to talk a lot or likes to shows it, but he is usually the one who asks for the ball and for balls which are difficult to receive. He tries to take the risks which are hard for a player to take.
“Pablo is someone who gives you the possibility to change a normal attack to one which creates a chance. He always keeps the feeling that we can hurt the opponent every time.”
Leeds’s promotion destiny is again in their own hands thanks to the surprise defeat suffered by the Blades.
Nevertheless the two Yorkshire clubs will start this month with a double-header that could go a long way towards deciding who has to make do with the play-offs.
Both Uniteds travel to Preston North End and Birmingham City in their next two fixtures, with Leeds heading to St Andrews on Saturday and then Deepdale three days later.
Bielsa, however, is determined not to get caught up in worrying how his rivals fare. “Every game we play we can’t be thinking about the result of any other team,” said the Argentinian.
Tyler Roberts, who provided the assist for Hernandez’s winner against Millwall, is of a similar mindset.
“If I am being honest I literally forgot about it the whole game,” said the 20-year-old when asked about events at Bramall Lane.
“Obviously we got the result and I was buzzing with the three points. Then I heard the fans cheer, but I didn’t really know what was going on.
“Then the scoreboard came up and obviously it was a nice feeling to know we are back in the top two where we belong. Hopefully we can just keep getting the results and get up.
“You can feel the buzz around the place. It is special and we just hope that we can get it over the line.
“Of course it is nice for it to be in our own hands again, but we just need to focus on the next game. Do that and we will get the job done.”
As for Bielsa he was pleased with the character shown by his side after falling behind, first to Ben Thompson’s early header and then a penalty from Ben Marshall 10 minutes into the second half.
He said: “With the three chances they created they scored twice. It was hard for us to change the result, but we changed the result playing with the style we have. I think we deserved to win.
“Things you cannot control happen in a football game. With one team having the skill to overcome adversity they deserve praise for this.”
Barry Douglas, brought off the bench at the start of the second half, left Elland Road in a protective boot after suffering an injury to his leg.
With Kemar Roofe due back next week against Birmingham, Bielsa had been hoping to have a fully fit squad for the first time.
Big-match verdict: Page 3