AmeJesse Marsch African coach Jesse Marsch had an encouraging first match in charge of Leeds, except for the result.
Making the Premier League’s most porous team more resilient and organized didn’t stop Leeds losing 1-0 to Leicester on Saturday.
Harvey Barnes’ well-executed goal in the 67th minute was enough to give Leicester victory and leave Leeds at risk of becoming further involved in the fight against relegation.
It was Leeds’ first match since Marsch replaced the sacked Marcelo Bielsa as manager and the American altered the team’s formation and approach, while maintaining his renowned intensity on and off the ball.
Showing plenty of passion and extremely active on the touchline, Marsch, wearing jeans and a sweater, saw Leeds create a number of clear chances before Barnes broke the deadlock. The best went to Raphinha, whose shot from close range was saved by the outstretched foot of Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Schmeichel had previously made great saves from Junior Firpo and Jack Harrison in the first half and Rodrigo after the break.
“After four days,” said Marsch, “having changed a lot of tactics and played clearly in all phases of the game, being very stable at the back, not giving up much, controlling the game for many stretches, I am very proud and happy with the group and how far, in four or five days, we’ve come.”
Leicester made Leeds pay when Barnes traded a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho and put a low finish through defender Luke Ayling’s legs and into the far corner.
It was the third win in a row for Leicester, who moved into mid-table in a season in which the big goal for the last two and a half months seems to be winning the Europa Conference League.
Leeds weren’t helped by having to play the final minutes effectively with 10 men after Tyler Roberts, the team’s third and final substitute, suffered a suspected hamstring injury. He kept playing but could barely run.
Marsch gathered his players on the pitch after the match before they applauded traveling fans from Leeds before returning to the locker room.
The former US international, who returned to management three months after leaving Leipzig, described it as a “great first step” for Leeds under his leadership.
“It’s a shame in our sport that it’s not always that fair,” Marsch said. “Playing that well, getting to a tough place to play, performing like that, it doesn’t feel good that we didn’t get what we think we deserve.”
Leeds started the game two points above the relegation zone and had allowed 20 goals in February, the most conceded by a team in a single month in Premier League history.
“I understand there is stress here because points are important right now,” Marsch said, “but we have to stay clear on our process and it has to be a condensed process.
“We have to continue to understand how we want to play and maintain a clear and fresh mentality that helps us grow and improve every day.”