MARCELO BIELSA may have had to wait longer than he wished… but he got his Raph justice in the end.
His Leeds United side had bossed Everton pretty much all night, only to blow chance after chance in a game that was fast stumbling towards a stalemate.
Yet then up popped Brazilian livewire Raphinha to drill in the goal which gave the visitors a victory they deserved – and show the doubters that Bielsa isn’t a bad coach after all.
The Argentine’s recent nomination on the Fifa short list as coach of the year had been mocked by many.
After all, despite his reputation, there were surely more deserving causes than managing a team to win the Championship.
By that reckoning, Neil Warnock should have been up the award more than once himself, eh?
Well actually, the way Bielsa’s team ran the show for such long periods against a side many reckoned would be this term’s dark horses proved he does know what he’s doing after all.
Mind you, anything other than an away win would have been cruel on the whites – or blacks as they were on Merseyside – who had done their best to fluff their lines before Raphinha drilled into the bottom corner.
They coughed up so many openings Bielsa must have longed for the upturned blue bucket he watches from at Elland Road
If he’d had it with him last night he would have buried his head in it in frustration at times, so wasteful were his side.
Certainly Jack Harrison will be wondering how he didn’t mark his 100th game for Leeds – all of them on loan from Manchester City – with a goal.
He jabbed one wide from bang in front, albeit with Jordan Pickford bearing down on him, when he really should have done better.
But if that was bad, the second was even worse, thumping a header against the post after he got beyond makeshift wing back Alex Iwobi.
That was a feature of the night, to be honest…not so much Harrison blowing chances as Iwobi going AWOL in his new role as stand-in for the crocked Lucas Digne.
Barely a minute had gone when he first went missing, as Raphinha raced onto Patrick Bamford’s chest down but gave a hint of what was to come.
He could have tried to go round Pickford, but opted for an outside-of-the-boot stab – and his shot wouldn’t have even reached the net, let alone ended up in it.
When they did get the ball in the net, it was – rightly – ruled out by VAR, as Ezgjan Alioski had strayed offside before delivering the cross that ended with Patrick Bamford poking home.
There was no argument at that, just like there wasn’t as Ben Godfrey was beyond the last defender Richarlison plonked a header beyond Illan Meslier.
Everton also had the ball in the net through James Rodriguez, only for technology to again nip those thoughts in the bud.
James’ great control in chesting it down, cutting back inside and drilling acutely into the far corner really merited a goal. But he was half an arm offside, and we know what that means.
Strictly speaking, true once again, yet nonetheless hugely frustrating. Mind you, it’s become such common practice now that we don’t even debate the point any more.
It’s no more open for argument than the fact Everton right now are a different side to the one which won their first four games and had some convinced they may be contenders.
You’d like a pint or two of what those optimists been drinking, because Carlo Ancelotti’s men were certainly second best last night. At times a very poor second, too.
Twice Pickford denied Bamford, Alioski should have put it beyond doubt after Raphinha’s opener, and Godfrey had to throw himself to block another from Harrison.
Bamford, incidentally, was actually aiming to match Thierry Henry’s Prem record of scoring in his club’s first five away games of a campaign.
Okay, no-one is daft enough to say he’s in the same league as the Frenchman, but not a bad start given the way reckoned he would be out of his depth.
If anything the only ones you could say that about at Goodison were the men in blue shirts. At least the ones in defence.
One comic cuts moment actually saw Michael Keane and Godfrey virtually tackling each other to tee up one chance for Bamford.
And when Raphinha drove home that low winner, it came after he realised Godfrey was standing off him for so long, that it would have been rude not to shoot.
Invitation offered, invitation taken…for Everton game lost and for Bielsa a reason to grin.
Not that opposite number Ancelotti was laughing, at a fourth defeat in five games, mind. He hasn’t had much to smile about for a while now.
For Leeds, though, the only way is up. Certainly if they carry on like this.
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