Sense of injustice drives Leeds United on in stunning comeback against Millwall
Marcelo Bielsa insisted he did not wave any magic wand at half-time despite Leeds United pulling off a stunning comeback to beat Millwall 3-2 at a buzzing Elland Road.
The Whites ended a run of more than five hours without a goal in spectacular style with three in 19 second half minutes, but only after they had found themselves two down and once again the victim of some poor officiating.
Patrick Bamford struck twice from close range and Pablo Hernandez scored with a deflected shot from the edge of the box to complete a comeback that gave United a win that was thoroughly deserved.
They would have won by a much bigger margin had they not been guilty of missing several good chances in both halves, which is why head coach Bielsa believed there was no special ingredient to their fightback.
He said: "It's not about what we said that made the change.
"Maybe the match looked like it was strange but it's a copy of all our matches. A lot of chances to make three goals.
"In one half we had a lot of chances. We played very well in attack. It's very similar to the matches we are used to playing."
Bielsa admitted his team had made a poor start to the game when they found themselves a goal down from a corner after four minutes, but he praised the players for the way they went on to perform.
He said: "There was confusion in the first five minutes.
"I give value to our team because we kept our style and way of playing after the first five minutes. We had a very good 25 minutes and in the second half after we scored our last goal we continued playing in the same way whilst keeping the style.
"Of course we have to analyse what happened in the opening moments of the match. In the last minutes of the first half we didn't have a chance. In the second half in some period we receive some chances from Millwall that we could've avoided. But the performance overall was great.
"The defensive shape of the opponent meant they had to put a lot of energy into it. After more minutes in the match we find more spaces.
"When the opponent has to attack when they are losing they are even wider. The difference between the two halves. It was more difficult to attack in the first, it was easier in the second."
Millwall looked keen to stretch United's run of four games without a win as they made a bright start and were rewarded with the opening goal as defender Shaun Hutchinson was left free to head home a corner.
The response from Leeds was good and they were unlucky not to be quickly level. Ezgjan Alioski and Mateusz Klich - who went on to have his best game for some time - went close with shots from the edge of the box. Klich made a strong run to the edge of the area only to be brought down yet the first of many contentious decisions saw no free-kick given.
Bamford should have done better when found free in the box only to send his shot straight to Millwall keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
Stuart Dallas then got in behind the visitors' defence, but saw his shot well saved by Bialkowski. Comically the officials somehow were the only ones in the ground not to see the save and a goal kick was given.
Dallas was again denied by the keeper after getting in a powerful shot before more bad officiating saw Millwall double their lead.
The ball went out of play down the Leeds right, but no throw-in was given and to make matters worse for the hosts Alioski was then judged to have brought down Jon Dadi Bodvarsson inside the area, Jed Wallace's spot kick went under Kiko Casilla and it was 2-0.
"Two-nil to the referee" sang the home fans in response and the feeling of injustice drove Leeds on.
They missed another great chance when Liam Cooper was completely unmarked from a corner, but could only direct his header straight at Bialkowski.
Hernandez tried to make space for himself in the box, but sent a shot over and it stayed 2-0 to half-time.
Leeds had a lifeline, however, within three minutes of the start of the second period as Jack Harrison's shot after a corner was flicked on was saved by the keeper and Bamford was there for a tap in on the line to end his goal drought.
The game opened up with both sides looking like adding more goals. Hernandez saw a volley tipped over, Bamford sent a glancing header wide and Harrison was denied by the keeper from close range. For Millwall, Mahlon Romeo's cross-shot was saved by Casilla and Tom Bradshaw turned well in the box only to see Casilla make his best save of the night to tip the ball wide.
Leeds were level just after the hour as Hernandez's shot from just outside the box went into the bottom corner off a Millwall defender's arm.
More goals had to come and it was the home team on target again when Luke Ayling's measured cross was headed home by Bamford.
The Whites now turned on the style and Helder Costa almost came up with a goal of the season contender with a terrific strike from a tight angle that was touched onto the crossbar by Bialkowski.
Hernandez sent a shot wide then Klich somehow blazed over when it looked easier to score with the goal gaping.
Following great play by Harrison and Hernandez another near thing followed with Alioski's shot landing on top of the net.
Millwall somehow survived this onslaught with a chance to get something from the game. They sent on their big former Leeds striker Matt Smith, but despite a late corner they only fashioned one chance late on as Jed Wallace fired over and United were home and dry for a big three points that took them back to the top of the Championship with West Brom losing.
Leeds United 3
(Bamford 48, 67, Hernandez 63)
(Hutchinson 4, J Wallace 21, pen)
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, White, Cooper, Alioski, Dallas, Costa, Klich, Hernandez (Shackleton 90+4), Harrison, Bamford.
Millwall: Bialkowski, Hutchinson, Pearce (Ferguson 72), Cooper, Romeo, Woods, Molumby, J Wallace, M Wallace, Bodvarsson (Mahoney 72), Bradshaw (Smith 82).
Referee: Darren England