Once, Twice, Three Times Bielsa.

Leeds edge ‘Frank Lampard’s’ Derby County at Pride Park.

Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United thwarted Derby County for a third time this season, handing them the advantage going into the second leg at Elland Road on Wednesday Night. A second half strike from Kemar Roofe was enough to separate the two sides.

Under the backdrop of automatic promotion failure and the dying embers of ‘Spygate’ Leeds produced almost the complete performance. With the only slight grievance being that the scoreline could and should have been greater. Marcelo Bielsa’s side assumed control early on and rarely relinquished it during the 90 minutes. There were no signs of a lack of confidence following a disappointing end to the regular season. Popping the ball around at will, leaving Derby to chase shadows and feed off scraps on the counter attack. Particularly impressive were the team defensively. First to almost every ball, so dominant were they that Derby failed to register a single attempt on target.

Shack Attack!

Shackleton made a huge impact off the bench.

Bielsa was forced into an early change in the first half with Adam Forshaw limping off. Cue the introduction of young Jamie Shackleton. Shackleton defied his years with a mature performance enabling Leeds to dominate the middle of the park. The Leeds youngster was everywhere, bursting from box to box providing the energy his side needed. Shackleton was not alone, there were a number of standout performances. Dallas at left back had arguably his best performance of the season. His link up play with Harrison made for a torrid afternoon for Derby’s right back Bogle.

Roofe’s Return.

Kemar Roofe is a thorn in Derby’s side yet again.

It was down United’s left hand side where the breakthrough came early into the second half. In a move synonymous with Bielsa’s free flowing football, Leeds carved open the Rams with a series of neat one touch passing. With the ball finding it’s way to Harrison out wide, his delightfully whipped in ball behind the Derby defence was an opportunity too good to pass up for the on rushing Kemar Roofe who finished with aplomb. A goal of huge significance not only in this time but for the chances of Leeds promotion tilt. Their inconsistent form towards the end of the season coincided with Roofe’s injury. To have their leading goalscorer back and firing could not have come at a better time.

Pen or no pen?

Games against Derby are rarely short of controversy and this fixture proved to be no different. When Bogle went to ground following a tussle with Harrison, hearts were in mouths. After a moment’s hesitation referee Pawson pointed to the spot. Thankfully for Harrison and Leeds, the Assistant Referee had other ideas. He believed Bogle to be the offender rather than the victim and encouraged the decision to be overturned. A sign that this would be United’s day? Mateusz Klich, playing up to his reputation as ‘pantomime villain’ found himself in the thick of things shortly afterwards. Having tangled with Tomori, he can perhaps feel fortunate to have escaped with a yellow card after appearing to headbutt the Derby defender in the midriff. Equally fortunate was Tom Huddlestone as his forearm smash on Dallas could and perhaps should have resulted in a red card.

It’s not over yet.

Derby did have fleeting moments of pressure in the final minutes without testing Casilla. With no side in Playoff history having overturned a first leg home defeat Lampard’s men have it all to do. That said Leeds would do well to be mindful of the weeks earlier European comebacks when they line up for the second leg. They will rightly be favourites but its effectively half time and with the away goals rule not applicable, it’s a narrow lead. For now, there is enough encouragement to suggest that United can make it to Wembley.

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