Despite a battling second half comeback Marcello Bielsa admitted he was disappointed that his Leeds United team suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Stoke City in the Carabao Cup.
After finding themselves two down at half-time goals from Eddie Nketiah and Helder Costa dragged the Whites back into the second round tie at Elland Road and the 90 minutes ended with the score at 2-2. But Stoke went through with a 5-4 shoot-out success.
The first nine penalties in the shoot-out were all put away before Jack Harrison saw the tenth bounce back off the post.
It was a cruel way to be knocked out after such a brilliant fightback that had the 30,000 fans on the edge of their seat and head coach Bielsa revealed his frustration.
He said: “It was very important to keep in this competition, being eliminated creates disappointment for us.
“The team played better in the second half than in the first half. It was hard for us to create clear chances in the first half, we didn’t play with enough clarity, we started the actions from one side but we couldn’t switch it to the other side, we didn’t play with enough clarity.
“In the second half the team played better. I cannot say that we improved the team by the changes that we did, but in the second half we created a difference, it was a difference of the collective of the team.”
The Leeds side showed eight changes from the team that won at Stoke on Saturday, including Alfie McAlmont and Mateusz Boguzs making their full debuts. Other youngsters drafted in were Jamie Shackleton and Leif Davis, who played in a back three with Kalvin Phillips and captain for the night Gaetano Berardi.
With so many changes and a complete change of formation as the visitors came with a front two the Whites took their time to settle and were given a couple of early warnings of defensive problems to come when Sam Vokes saw one header saved and another go over. Tom Ince also went on a dangerous run that ended with a shot that was deflected over.
United did finally begin to pass the ball around and were unlucky when Barry Douglas fired in a volley that went just over.
Davis had a header from a corner blocked and in a little purple patch Eddie Nketiah was desperately unlucky to see his well hit shot from the edge of the box come back off the post following good build-up play involving Shackleton and Jack Clarke.
In the next two minutes Bogusz was not far wide with a 20-yard shot and Helder Costa produced a great run from right to left that ended with a shot that only just cleared the crossbar.
With Leeds now on top Nketiah headed over from a corner, but they were stunned when Stoke took the lead from a corner, their massive height advantage coming in handy as giant centre-half Danny Batth’s header proved too strong for Kiko Casilla to keep out.
A second goal followed just before half-time as Sam Vokes netted from close range following a strong run and low cross by Tyrese Campbell.
Head coach Bielsa responded to the 2-0 half-time score by making all three substitutions at the break, first teamers Ben White, Adam Forshaw and Jack Harrison coming on for youngsters Shackleton, McAlmont and Clarke.
The players initially responded with Douglas hitting a shot into the side netting after Nketiah’s dangerous low cross was not cleared and Davis heading a good chance over after meeting Phillips’ free-kick.
Ince saw a 20-yard shot comfortably saved by Casilla before Leeds were swiftly back on the attack with Phillips sending a free-kick wide and Bogusz producing a great strike that was equally well saved by Jack Butland.
Stoke fans responded with chants of “England’s number one” and were left to choke on their words as Butland mis-hit a clearance straight against one of his defenders. Quick as a flash Nketiah was onto it and just as swiftly went past the keeper to score into an empty net.
The Elland Road roar was now in full effect and Harrison went close with a strike from distance before Forshaw saw a shot deflected wide. From the resulting corner the ball was flicked on and Nketiah could not quite reach it at the far post.
An equaliser had to come and it was Costa who got it as he came flying in to head home a teasing Davis cross at the far post.
United pushed on for a winner, but Stoke were professional in running down the clock towards the close and fortunate to see Phillips send a header just wide in injury time.
Penalties were required and Douglas, Costa, Phillips and Nketiah all confidently netted for Leeds with Vokes, Mark Duffy, Peter Etebo and Sam Clucas all putting their spot kicks away for Stoke.
Butland turned from stopper to scorer to make it 5-4 for the visitors then Harrison hit his penalty well, but saw the ball hit the post. Ironically Clucas had earlier scored his in off the post and on such thin margins cup ties can be decided.
United players, however, walked off to a defiant ovation with supporters also chanting Harrison’s name.
Leeds United 2
(Nketiah 67, Costa 81)
Stoke City 2
(Batth 39, Vokes 44)
Carabao Cup, round two
Leeds: Casilla, Berardi, Phillips, Davis, Costa, McAlmont (White 45), Shackleton (Forshaw 45), Bogusz, Douglas, Clarke (Harrison 45), Nketiah.
Stoke: Butland, Carter-Vickers, Martins Indi, Batth, Ward, Clucas, Smith, Woods (Duffy 90+5), Ince (Cousins 84), Campbell (Etebo 69), Vokes.
Referee: Oliver Langford