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Leeds 2-0 Derby: Roofe and Harrison strike as Bielsa's side win after spygate

  /  autty

It is fair to say that Marcelo Bielsa sees things differently to other managers in English football. From his hunched touchline perspective atop a bucket to his view on pre-match preparations.

But on Saturday morning as the ethics of his decision to send a spy on a midweek recce to Derby’s training ground are debated - a clash of culture some may say, a complete lack of it others - the Argentine looks down from the summit of the Championship five points ahead of the field.

Part of Derby manager Frank Lampard’s beef was that Bielsa's intruder could relay the information that his trump card Harry Wilson, the Liverpool loanee, had not recovered from a hip injury.

However, whether his team-mates would have got the ball to the young Welshman before Leeds had opened up a two-goal advantage in a devastating opening 47 minutes is debatable as close-range finishes from Kemar Roofe and Jack Harrison comfortably saw off the challenge of a promotion rival.

When Leeds are in this kind of mood there is little their second-tier rivals can do to stop them.

Earlier, Bielsa made a pre-match television apology, coupled with an awkward handshake with Lampard, following the club’s toughest period of the season.

Having met previous defeats with emphatic responses, his team failed to repeat the dose in the aftermath of Hull’s win here on Boxing Day, losing at Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day and then exiting the FA Cup at QPR.

They were boosted in their attempts to put things right by the return to fitness of two of their experienced players. The creative imp Pablo Hernandez - who during 2018 teed up 15 league goals for Leeds, five more than any other Championship player, overcame a thigh strain while while captain Liam Cooper, who underwent knee surgery during the first week of December, returned at the back.

Yet it would be youth that would prove key in a fixture of such intense drama that it felt normal when Leeds burst downfield to win a penalty within 45 seconds.

Referee Andy Davies pointed to the spot after Ezgjan Alioski was felled by Andre Wisdom and did not notice an erroneous call for offside due to the pandemonium created in the stands.

The raucous, scarf-twirling Loiners let out a collective groan. Leeds and penalties are not natural bedfellows, you see. In fact, despite their charge towards the Premier League they had not been awarded one for 59 matches until a month ago.

It mattered little, however, as the converter one against that one versus QPR here, Kemar Roofe, put the leaders ahead with a predatory 20th-minute finish.

Eighteen-year-old Jack Clarke marked his full league debut for the club by skipping around Craig Bryson and threading the ball between the Derby backline and the goalkeeper Scott Carson. Roofe simply couldn’t miss from a position five yards out and wheeled away to celebrate his 14th Championship goal of the season.

The first half demonstrated the effect Bielsa’s coaching methods have had on a group barely featuring a change from last season, other than the injection of youth he has provided.

Indeed, purrs were audible every time Clarke received possession down the right flank; one impudent flick over a Derby head and into his own path resulted in the rising star volleying fiercely wide.

And it was no surprise when, during a high-octane start to the second period, it was Clarke’s piercing cross that contributed to Leeds’ second. Scott Carson provided his first club with a helping hand, flapping the ball from under his crossbar and Alioski squared for Harrison to tap in.

Derby enjoyed their best period soon afterwards, during which substitute David Nugent was foiled by the onrushing Bailey Peacock-Farrell 45 yards from his goal.

But this was the home team’s night and Clarke was hooked in the final quarter hour to a standing ovation and chants of ‘We all love Leeds’.

After this latest controversy, however, that might not be a sentiment shared by many outside the city boundaries.