ELLAND ROAD — Marcelo Bielsa may well be guiding Leeds back to the Premier League after a painful 16-year absence, but this amounted to one of the most frustrating 90 minutes of his Elland Road reign.
The 64-year-old Argentine was almost beside himself as Luton Town, bottom of the Championship, forced Bielsa’s promotion favourites to settle for a solitary point.
Take nothing away from Nathan Jones’ men; Leeds certainly took little from them and it needed a Stuart Dallas equaliser in the 63rd minute to deny the visitors victory.
Bielsa paced his technical area with growing exasperation as the game wore on, barking orders at his players while above him managing director Angus Kinnear and director of football Victor Orta watched on nervously.
This was another point closer for Bielsa and his players, but it felt like two points lost. You cannot write the scripts of Leeds United.
In-form Brentford are breathing down the necks of Leeds and West Bromwich Albion in the race for automatic promotion.
Luton substitute Harry Cornick entered the fray at half-time and within five minutes had produced a delightful finish to put his team ahead.
Advancing on to a fine pass from Ryan Tunicliffe, Cornick showed remarkable composure and skill to evade the attention of Ben White and curl a sumptuous right-foot shot into the top corner from the left-hand edge of Leeds’ penalty box.
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Dallas had the time and space to finish clinically from substitute Ezgjan Alioski’s neat pass, but Leeds lacked the clinical touch to find the winning goal as chances were spurned.
To win promotion at any level requires a special kind of spirit. You need a certain togetherness and a willingness to put your head in where it hurts. You have to be able to call on a collective desire.
The same could be said about avoiding relegation and there was certainly no hiding place for Luton last night. Not that they suggested they were looking.
The Hatters remain bottom and face a mountainous task to avoid the drop, yet they are now unbeaten in six and will take great heart from their performance here.
Luton soon began to gain a foothold on proceedings last night, while Leeds lost captain Liam Cooper to injury early on.
The defender landed awkwardly when defending a free-kick and, although he tried to run off the complaint, he was withdrawn and replaced by Gaetano Berardi.
Buoyed by Callum McManaman’s strong running up front, the visitors had a penalty claim turned down in the 15th minute.
Berardi’s clearance ricocheted off McManaman and the forward took a tumble inside Leeds’ penalty box, with Luton’s loud calls for a spot-kick ignored by referee John Brooks and his assistants.
At the other end, Tyler Roberts lashed a fierce shot over Luton’s crossbar before Luton captain Sonny Bradley planted a header goalwards from James Bree’s right-wing corner.
It drew a decent save from Leeds’ rookie goalkeeper Illan Meslier, but five minutes after the restart Luton led when Cornick produced his moment of magic to stun Bielsa and his trusted coaching staff.
Leeds brought on Alioski at the break and the Macedonian quickly made a telling impact on their left flank, while mercurial playmaker Pablo Hernandez entered the fray on the hour.
Moments later, Alioski’s pass found Dallas in space and the Northern Ireland international had the time to slot home a well-taken leveller.
From there Leeds pushed hard for a winner but inspired goalkeeper Simon Sluga made a series of impressive saves.
Alioski headed wide and Sluga again came to Luton’s rescue before Bamford failed to connect when he attempted to head home.
World news – GB – Why Bielsa was forced to endure one of the most frustrating nights of his Leeds reign