QPR 1-0 Leeds United: London curse strikes again for Bielsa's Leeds
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Leeds United's Luke Ayling caught between Queens Park Rangers after a tackle on Geoff Cameron during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Leeds United at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on January 18, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Stephanie Meek - CameraSport via Getty Images)

As Mark Warburton's Queens Park Rangers celebrated a seismic home victory, Leeds United fans would be forgiven for fearing lightning may yet strike again as the infamous implosion continues with a 1-0 defeat in West London. 

This was not a noticeably poor Leeds performance, as is often the case, but a blatant handball in the build-up to the first goal, a red card and a missed penalty left them with little chance to dispel their turgid run of away matches in London that now stretches to just one win in 24 in the capital.

And, more importantly, it leaves them with just one win in eight in all competitions, and with Fulham, Brentford et al breathing down their neck. Their world is well and truly caving in.

Take nothing away from QPR, though, who played with a verve and confidence unexpected of a side who were trailing their opponents by 17 points prior to today. They move up to 13th, with the playoffs very much in sight.

Story of the match

The controversy had begun in only the third minute when Pablo Hernandez, returning to the team after his hamstring injury, attempted to spread the ball out wide to Heldér Costa. The pass was tame, and Lee Wallace stepped in to intercept, catching the foot of Costa who tumbled to the ground inside the area. No penalty.

QPR were looking sharp, though, attempting to play through the visitors' press - admittedly with mixed results - and denying Leeds any time to think on the ball. Marcelo Bielsa's men were struggling to find their rhythm.

In the 20th minute, Rangers would be rewarded for their efforts. Bright Osayi-Samuel, a thorn in the Leeds defence all game, bursted forward competently from midfield, driving towards the penalty area with multiple Leeds bodies surrounding him. He would eventually win the free-kick.

Eberechi Eze stepped up, with the ball perilously poised on the edge of the penalty area. His effort cannoned straight onto the head of Luke Ayling, deflecting onto both arms of Nahki Wells who poked the ball past Kiko Casilla into the back of the net. The Leeds protests were imminent and vigorous, but the goal stood.

Patrick Bamford raced through on goal before half-time after Casilla's goalkick somehow made its way through the whole QPR team, but he spurned his guilt-edged chance well over, and left Leeds with their work cut out in the second half.

The interval oversaw a marked improvement on Leeds' behalf, with Bielsa's men controlling possession and comfortably playing through the QPR press as Jack Harrison headed marginally wide in the 52nd minute.

And then came the penalty. On 61 minutes, Luke Ayling slipped Bamford in behind the QPR defence with a guileful through ball,  with the Leeds striker just able to latch onto it before the contact came from an irrational Liam Kelly. Leeds penalty.

Bamford, the man whom Bielsa has placed so much faith in this season, stepped up to the spot. He fired low to Kelly's left, who atoned for his previous error and diverted the effort beyond the post with his fingertips. The stadium erupted.

Nevertheless, Leeds marched on, not knocking, but hammering on the door of the QPR defence. Hernandez's free-kick clipped the outside of the post. Bamford went close again with a header. It felt like more of a case of when than if Leeds would achieve parity.

To their credit, though, Warburton's men stood strong, denying Leeds any real clear-cut chances as they surrendered possession late on.

In the 88th minute, however, Leeds misery would be compiled as Kalvin Phillips was awarded a straight red card for his horror tackle on Geoff Cameron. The three points were sealed for the hosts, while Bielsa's men trudged down the tunnel wondering where it had all gone wrong. 

Osayi-Samuel impresses

Often overshadowed by the illustrious Eberechi Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel put in a performance to remember in front of the Sky Sports cameras today. 

With his pace, trickery and slight of foot, Osayi-Samuel ran both Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski ragged on that right-hand side, constantly driving QPR forward with his directness. It was only his decision making that let him down at times.

Nevertheless,  the 22-year-old is undoubtedly a talent, and be sure a number of Premier League clubs will be keeping tabs on him if his progress continues.

How do Leeds stop the rot ?

Not for the first time during his reign at Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa has a real conundrum on his hands. With one in eight and the points gap separating them from third place disintegrating by the game, the Argentinian needs to find a way to arrest the slump.

But are performances as bad as results suggest ? Yes and no. Leeds have had more shots on target than their opponent in each of their last four losses ( a decent proxy for performance levels), and today was evidence of a number of refereeing decisions going against them. 

There are weaknesses to this side, however. Left-back has been a longstanding area of concern that has no doubt been exacerbated by the injury of Barry Douglas. Alioski is always a weapon going forward, but neglects far too much space on the counter-attack. 

Leeds' offensive play has also been slightly predictable as of late. Bielsa restricts the use of the unique 3-3-3-1 formation to teams that play with two up front, but perhaps it's time the system is used more often as Leeds' passing and movement always seems to be more difficult to track in comparison to the 4-1-4-1.

VAVEL Logo