Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds show no compromise in Liverpool thriller

Leeds United were beaten 4-3 by champions Liverpool at Anfield but Marcelo Bielsa’s signal of intent with the team’s style of play offers a glimpse of what to expect this season

Mateusz Klich is mobbed by Leeds team-mates after his equaliser

"We are not going to lie down," Marcelo Bielsa told Sky Sports. "It is not a question of vanity. It is just a question of conviction in our style of play. It is the only way I know."

It would be easy to summarise the subsequent 4-3 defeat at Liverpool as Leeds United's introduction to the harsh realities of the Premier League. But after such a rousing display from the newly-promoted side, this felt more like the Premier League's introduction to Bielsa.

Three times they fell behind and three times they equalised. Only Mohamed Salah's hat-trick goal, his second penalty of the match, scored with just minutes remaining, proved too much.

Still, it was the verve of the performance, their approach to the challenge before them, that stood out.

Leeds took the game to Liverpool.

If ever there were a case for compromise, it was here. The champions at Anfield, where they had won 25 of their previous 26 and are now unbeaten in 60 Premier League matches.

Former Leeds striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was in the studio talking of a possible tweak to the system, the need to acknowledge the scale of the task awaiting them on Merseyside.

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The experience of Norwich, their predecessors as Championship winners, on the first weekend of the previous season when they were punished for being too open, was seen as instructive.

Instead, Bielsa unleashed his Leeds side.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool's win over Leeds in the Premier League

In the first three quarters of the game, in particular, they pressed at every opportunity, throwing bodies forward. No caution, no backward steps. Even after withstanding some intermittent pressure late on, Leeds finished the game having had more of the possession.

They went man for man at times, centre-backs following strikers into deep areas. They put in 33 tackles - the most that any team has made in a Premier League game since Duncan Ferguson rallied Everton to a 3-1 win over Chelsea in his first game as caretaker manager. It was also the most that Liverpool have been tackled in a Premier League game for five seasons.

Indeed, this was the most that any team has tackled Liverpool in a Premier League game at Anfield since Klopp took over in 2015. The German may have expected it. His players are certainly not used to it.

Leeds made 33 tackles against Liverpool at Anfield

"You can say that Liverpool were not at their best but they were not allowed to be at their best," Graeme Souness told Sky Sports. "Leeds hunted them down today for a large part of that game. I don't think they enjoyed the experience. Liverpool normally do that to teams that they play. They normally put teams under pressure and outwork them.

"Tonight, Liverpool were outworked."

They normally put teams under pressure and outwork them. Tonight, Liverpool were outworked.
Graeme Souness

Salah's first penalty, harshly awarded after the ball bounced up off Robin Koch's knee before inadvertently striking his hand, might have cowed Leeds. On the contrary, it only seemed to embolden them as they rushed forward in search of an immediate equalising goal.

By the time that it came, in delightful fashion through Jack Harrison in just the twelfth minute of the match, Jurgen Klopp's side had already had a couple of warnings. Helder Costa's disallowed goal. Patrick Bamford's one-on-one chance that was spurned.

At the other end, Virgil van Dijk restored the advantage with a routine header from a corner - the second of four Liverpool goals scored from set pieces, a frustration for Bielsa.

But the response was there with Bamford seizing upon nonchalant defending from Van Dijk to equalise once more. Even Salah's stunning strike to make it 3-2 did not stem the flow.

"This could be 7-7," said Jamie Carragher on co-commentary for Sky Sports, and that reflected the positivity of Leeds' game. There were gaps left at the back but their willingness to go in search of openings of their own made for a fascinating contest.

In the closing stages of the half, Leeds had seven players in the Liverpool penalty box during open play. When Mateusz Klich found the third equaliser midway through the second half, he was one of five Leeds players in the area. They did not create that many chances, in truth, but with this ambition they gave themselves every opportunity to create chances.

Ultimately, it was not enough to achieve the result, and the more cruel among the public might suggest that this was Bielsa's managerial career in microcosm - the great entertainer wowing his audience only to come out of it with nothing tangible to show for his efforts.

But that was not the overriding emotion after watching this. Leeds will have easier evenings than facing Liverpool away and given that Bielsa is certain to approach those games with the same purpose that was so evident at Anfield, there is every reason to expect rewards.

The more obvious conclusion from this game is that Liverpool will have many easier evenings than having to cope with the unique challenge of the frenzied movement of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United.

Jurgen Klopp's verdict on Leeds

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Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool's 4-3 win over Leeds was football at its best

"I congratulated every one of their team, what a team they are," Klopp told Sky Sports. "Unbelievable. I will watch them quite often during the season.

"What a game, what an opponent, what a performance from both teams. A proper spectacle, I loved that.

"It is pretty rare you see that many goals in a game, we have left space for improvement in our defending but that is not unusual for a first game. Our players have played a few days ago for their countries so it is possible.

"The opponent forced us to make mistakes, we can do better, we will do better but I loved a lot about the game against a well-organised, passionate side like Leeds. We used our skills to cause them problems, we could have scored more and in the end we used set pieces which is fine by me.

"It is not like riding a bike, you can lose something in pre-season and it takes time to all come together again. I am really positive about this game. Leeds will have a good season if they can keep up that intensity and they did it in the Championship with more games so why not?"

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