Marcelo Bielsa says Leeds United took a “step forward” by ending a three-game losing run in the Premier League with a victory over Burnley at Elland Road that adds to the Clarets’ own relegation fears.
Stuart Dallas curled in with 13 minutes to go and Daniel James’ header then crept in as Bielsa’s side moved eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Jack Harrison had opened the scoring before the break, squeezing an effort inside the near post after Wayne Hennessey saved the winger’s initial strike.
Substitute Maxwel Cornet’s sublime free-kick levelled for Burnley, whose celebrations were soured when Matt Lowton was hit in the face with a bottle thrown from the crowd.
But those late efforts from Dallas and James turned the game back in Leeds’ favour, while Sean Dyche’s Burnley side are without a win since the end of October.
Defeat means the Clarets remain 18th, two points from safety with a game in hand on Watford above them.
“It was a necessary victory in a game that’s very important at this stage of the season,” Bielsa told BBC Sport. “It was very difficult to win but the victory was deserved.
“It’s a step forward but it’s insufficient if we don’t give consistency to the performances.”
Relegation battle between four?
Bielsa said beforehand the “evaluation of my task in the last few months is negative” after three successive defeats in which his side shipped 14 goals, but there was far more energy in the hosts’ performance on Sunday.
Those losses had also come against three of the current top four in Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, and the Argentine boss has plenty of credit in the bank at Elland Road.
Bielsa was boosted by the return of defenders Diego Llorente and Junior Firpo but, while still looking light in attack with Patrick Bamford yet to return, it took a mistake from Burnley for the hosts to open the scoring.
Tyler Roberts had earlier headed a glorious chance wide before Clarets defender James Tarkowski’s pass was intercepted by Harrison.
The winger was then also quickest to the rebound after Hennessey palmed away his initial effort to score his first league goal of the season.
“We need goals,” said Bielsa. “The goals sometimes are offered by different players. I’m sure it’s going to help them find their confidence and to score once again.”
The visitors did have chances of their own and Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier was forced into a point-blank save when Chris Wood latched on to Charlie Taylor’s dangerous cross.
Dyche responded at half-time by bringing on a player who must be in the running for signing of the season, and he had an instant impact.
Ivory Coast international Cornet, bought from Lyon in the summer for £12.85m, whipped a free-kick beyond Meslier from around 30 yards for his sixth goal in 10 league games.
Leeds’ own creative genius Raphinha was at his enigmatic best, almost catching Hennessey off his line from halfway with an effort that clipped the crossbar early on, but when presented a chance to win the game, the Brazilian could only steer James’ teasing cross into the side-netting.
In the end it did not matter, with Dallas finding the corner with a well-placed left-footed effort and substitute James wrapping up the victory with a header in stoppage time.
Dyche dismissed the idea this game was more important than any other but Leeds’ victory means the bottom four have been cut adrift and at this stage it looks as if only one of Watford, Burnley, Newcastle and Norwich will survive.
Dyche will be well aware Clarets need to address their away form if they are to be the ones remaining in the top flight, having not won on the road in the competition since May.