Marcelo Bielsa pleased with fight shown by Leeds United players at Luton

Leeds United defender Ben White, who earned praise from Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds United defender Ben White, who earned praise from Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa was pleased with the way his team fought as well as played in their battling 2-1 victory at Luton Town.

The win put the Whites back into second place and gave them a three-point cushion in the automatic promotion places ahead of a quick follow-up game on Tuesday night at Reading.

It was achieved thanks to a 90th minute winner claimed by Patrick Bamford, but credited as a Matty Pearson own goal.

Bamford had opened the scoring early in the second half only for his effort to be cancelled out within three minutes by James Collins.

United then had to withstand a strong spell from their hosts, but they were worthy winners as Bielsa claimed as he was backed up by statistics that showed Leeds enjoyed 75 per cent possession and had as many as 12 efforts on target.

Bielsa said: "I think the result was fair, a good performance from the team.

"In the first half it was a little bit easier for us, but in the second half we fought a little bit more.

"As usual it is very difficult to win, if you don't fight, you don't have good condition to play. If you want to win, you have to fight, if not you cannot. I think that we fought and we could play as well.

"After we got the first goal we had a chance where we could have imposed a second one, after we scored the second goal we had two clear chances. But you've seen that the last ball of the match was for them, number three at the back post. When you have just a goal difference, deserving to win is not enough."

Bielsa explained how it was difficult for visiting teams not used to playing at the smaller Kenilworth Road ground.

"I think that playing in this stadium is not easy.

"You play in a small space, there is always a difficulty for the team who attacks. When the pitch is small this difficulty increases.

"When you play in a small space the possibility to score when you are building the attack increases, that allows the team that is defending to counter attack.

"This is a team who are compact in defence, they recover and counter attack very fast and they play long balls after recovering. In this pitch long balls means box to box."

There was praise from the Leeds boss for ever impressive centre-back Ben White who superbly made the first with a great charge out of defence topped off by a perfect through ball to set up Bamford to score.

Bielsa added: "You can say nothing about that, it's easy to value what he did. Everyone can realise it was a brilliant action.

"It's a way to describe where football is going. The attacker defends and the defenders have an involvement in the building of an attack. It is not normal that a centre-back gives these kind of passes."

Bielsa made two changes to his team for the match, surprisingly going with Gaetano Berardi in defence ahead of skipper Liam Cooper, and less surprisingly bringing back Pabolo Hernandez for Helder Costa.

United soon got on top, although chances were initially scarce aside for one for Bamford who shot straight at keeper James Shea.

Clear opportunities were spurned, however, as Bamford should have put the visitors ahead when hitting the post with a volley from close range then after Kalvin Phillips' shot had been parried by Shea the rebound fell to Jack Harrison, but he could not beat the keeper from close range.

Luke Ayling and Mateusz Klich both sent efforts wide before Shea came up with a superb save to deny Tyler Roberts after his shot took a deflection.

The goal finally arrived six minutes into the second half when Phillips won the ball in a challenge with former Leeds loanee Izzy Brown and White strode forward from his own half to play in Bamford to beat Shea at his near post.

This was the cue for Luton to have their best spell in the game as they quickly equalised as Brown's cross was headed home by Collins and almost went in front when Harry Cornick's effort ruled out for offside.

United saw out the pressure that followed and came up with a big finish. Mateusz Klich forced another decent save from home man of the match Shea and Hernandez also got an effort in on goal before they came up with a winner in the last minute of normal time.

Klich did well to pull the ball back and his low cross appeared to go in off Luton player Pearson as he challenged for the ball with Bamford at the near post.

Leeds then failed to make the most of a chance to put the game to bed in added time and almost paid the price when the very last action of the game saw Sonny Bradley head wide a good chance for Luton when a corner was not dealt with.

Match facts

Luton Town 1

(Collins 54)

Leeds United 2

(Bamford 51, Pearson og 90)

Championship

Attendance: 10,068

Luton: Shea, Potts, Tunnicliffe, Bradley, Pearson, Shinnie (Bolton 90+1), Mpanzu, Bree, Brown (McManaman 75), Cornick (Lua Lua 75), Collins.

Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, White, Berardi (Cooper 59), Dallas, Phillips, Klich, Hernandez, Roberts (Clarke 61), Harrison (Costa 64), Bamford.

Referee: John Brooks.