HEAD coach Marcelo Bielsa believes Leeds United have got last month’s damaging defeat at fellow high-fliers West Brom out of their system and reasserted their promotion credentials.
Second-placed Leeds continued their sterling response following a 4-1 defeat at The Hawthorns with a 2-1 home victory over QPR on Saturday – a result which saw them record a fourth successive Championship win for the first time in 2018.
The decisive moment saw Leeds awarded a penalty for the first time in 59 games since October 2017, with two-goal Kemar Roofe’s controversial 53rd-minute spot-kick seeing them edge out a spirited Rangers.
On a weekend when rivals West Brom and Middlesbrough dropped points, second-placed Leeds find themselves with a five-point buffer over third position, with Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United occupying that spot after jumping up three places with a 2-0 win at Reading.
Bielsa, whose side have passed the 40-point barrier for the season comfortably before Christmas, said: “It is very difficult in this Championship to win four games in a row. It is also difficult to deserve to win the games, too.
“These 12 points came after an important loss and it allows us to forget this feeling of having lost by such a difference (at West Brom).
If we show we are able to keep this difference, then it would be a big difference. If you lose the capacity to play at the same level, the difference will not matter.Leeds United boss, Marcelo Bielsa
“It is important when you have a positive cycle of wins and we have won the last four games. But many things that did not happen could have happened and we would be in a different situation.”
On whether Leeds’ five-point cushion could be psychologically important, Bielsa observed: “This depends on the capacity we show to keep this difference.
“If we show we are able to keep this difference, then it would be a big difference. If you lose the capacity to play at the same level, the difference will not matter.”
The key moment in Saturday’s game arrived when visiting captain Toni Leistner was adjudged by referee Peter Bankes to have handled under pressure from Roofe, who had earlier cancelled out an opener from former Huddersfield Town striker Nahki Wells with a leveller moments before the interval.
The award left Hoops manager and former England and Middlesbrough chief Steve McClaren furious . He said: “It has cost us a result. Toni was adamant that it never touched his hand and the referee’s position from what I have seen on the replay – wow...
“He (the referee) has got fantastic eyes. He can see through people to see that handball. There was a lot of influence behind the goal.”