Marcelo Bielsa plays down Pablo Hernandez concerns after big Leeds United win over Fulham

Marcelo Bielsa played down injury concerns over Pablo Hernandez, Patrick Bamford and Helder Costa after his side's 3-0 win over Fulham.

Hernandez came off the bench to make his first appearance since lockdown, and was the biggest single influence on the way Leeds United transformed their performance, yet he was substituted before full-time.

Although they led 1-0 through Bamford, the hosts were far from convincing in a first half Fulham had much the better of. But Hernandez's introduction gave them control of the midfield, and it was noticeable that after the third goal, scored by Jack Harrison, three team-mates immediately ran to the Spaniard to congratulate him for his brilliant pass.

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So to see Jamie Shackleton come on for him in stoppage time was concerning.

INFLUENTIAL: Pablo Hernandez changed the second half for Leeds United, but did not complete it

“We had one more substitute and we thought 45 minutes was enough for his comeback,” explained coach Bielsa afterwards.

“When Pablo came onto the pitch he linked well with Tyler (Roberts, who moved from central midfield to centre-forward with Ezgjan Alioski coming on for Bamford) and at the other end when we recovered the ball we found Pablo. He gave the team the option to go long with accurate passes.”

Bielsa said the half-time withdrawal of Bamford and Costa were not due to injuries.

“The way the team performs never depends on just one player,” said Bielsa when asked about centre-forward Bamford. “He made a big effort in the first half but we didn’t press enough because of Fulham’s organisation.”

On Costa, who laid on Bamford's goal but often left right-back Luke Ayling exposed, he explained: “He's not injured. The substitution was not about that.”

Explaining the turnaround from his team in their first game at Elland Road since the lockdown which saw the deaths of former players Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry, Bielsa said: “In the first half, the time it took to recover the ball was not good enough and they were very close to our box. We could not get the ball back quickly.

“In the second half we played with much more clarity, we were so much better.

“The victory was necessary for us, very important, and there are other feelings that we have to consider (Hunter and Cherry) – that was part of the match as well.”

Victory put Leeds three points clear at the top of the Championship, and opened the gap to Fulham to 10. The crucial gap to third-placed Brentford is now eight.

“In every match now we are going to talk about numbers in the table but it is very difficult to read too much into any one set of results at this stage,” he said.

Opposite number Scott Parker bemoaned Fulham not being clinical enough.

“Overall, the performance first half was exceptional,” he said. “We came here with a real purpose to win the game against a top Leeds team. I thought we were superb in that.

“I thought we needed to be more clinical. (in the) first half we needed to put one away. They were more efficient in the final third. That was the difference.

“I think (automatic promotion) is going to be a big ask. I wouldn’t write it off. We are in a world where the unexpected can happen.”

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