12 March 2023

Leeds head coach Javi Gracia defends his tactics after draw against Brighton

12 March 2023

Leeds head coach Javi Gracia defended his tactics after his side twice hit back in a 2-2 home draw against high-flying Brighton.

Patrick Bamford’s deflected strike before the interval cancelled out Alexis Mac Allister’s header and Jack Harrison fired a superb equaliser after Brighton had regained the lead via his second-half own goal.

Leeds fans have grown accustomed to seeing their side adopt a more dynamic high-press style at Elland Road, but Gracia instructed his players not to press Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele and sit deeper when out of possession.

The former Watford boss said: “To play against this team, in my opinion it’s very demanding.

“It’s very demanding because you have to know the way you have to have players, where, when and do it as a team.

“Because if you don’t know how to do it, they find a way to progress with different passes and a lot of mobility.

“They are a very good team, that’s why my players deserve credit because they followed the plan and did it well.”

Gracia had done his homework on Brighton, who have continued to make impressive progress this season in pursuit of European football under Italian head coach Roberto De Zerbi.

“I know what happens when you go to press the goalkeeper against this team, I have seen many games,” Gracia added.

“I know what happens, so we prefer to wait and wait in the right moment to be compact.”

Brighton still created the game’s better chances, with Mac Allister and substitute Danny Welbeck guilty of glaring misses in either half.

Seagulls midfielder Solly March expressed his disappointment in his post-match interview at his side’s wayward finishing.

“Yes, definitely frustration,” March said. “We did enough to win the game, maybe had the chances to put the game to bed.

“It’s a tough place to come, especially when the atmosphere gets going.

“At 2-1, we would have liked to have seen the game out and get the three points, so yes, it is frustrating.”

Brighton leapfrogged Fulham into seventh place, two points behind Newcastle, with the Cottagers facing Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Leeds slipped into the bottom three before kick-off against Brighton after Bournemouth’s unlikely win against Liverpool.

Anxiety hung in the air at Elland Road and Brighton’s superiority helped keep the home fans subdued for extended periods.

March added: “I think we were better in the first half than the second, we really dominated the game.

“To be honest, they didn’t know what to do, so to go in at 1-1 at half-time was a bit of a killer out of nothing.

“That was frustrating, but to not even come away with the three points is even more frustrating.”

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