Leeds stun Blackburn as Kemar Roofe’s late double keeps leaders flying

Mateusz Klich likens playing for Marcelo Bielsa to “being in the military” but the Leeds midfielder means it as a compliment. His Argentinian manager presides over a happy as well as efficient army in West Yorkshire and, with half the season behind them, they are Marching on Together with fairly formidable synchronicity.

The strains of the club’s anthem boomed out of the sound system loud and proud after Bielsa’s team recovered from a crazy final few minutes in which the leaders seemed to have thrown the game away only somehow to record a seventh successive league win, moving three points clear of Norwich.

Two stoppage-time goals from Kemar Roofe rescued them after Charlie Mulgrew’s 90th-minute free-kick appeared to have given Blackburn a win few could have begrudged them on a day when Tony Mowbray’s intelligent tactical bravery very nearly paid rich dividends. Instead an indomitable Leeds, undeterred by falling two down at Aston Villa on Sunday, rallied to register their second 3-2 win in four days. The attendance was not quite as big as the 46,000‑plus up the road and down a division at Sunderland but the crowd of close on 35,000 crammed into Elland Road unleashed an almighty roar as Roofe won it, just as he had at Villa. “The noise at the end was moving,” Bielsa said. “We deserved to win but we could have lost and it was high emotion. But then, emotionally, nothing compares to football.”

Earlier he and Leeds had seemed slightly taken aback as Rovers delighted in attempting to outplay them at their own high-pressing game. In forcing Adam Forshaw, Klich and friends into initially frequent concessions of possession, Mowbray had his gameplan spot-on and the home side looked suitably ruffled. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but, as a crisp first-time shot from Jack Rodwell – remember him? – whistled past Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s post, Bielsa’s players did not appreciate it. The former Argentina and Chile coach is generally a calm, composed sort of general and duly spends the majority of matches sitting quietly on an upturned blue bucket in the technical area.

After 30 minutes, though, Leeds began unleashing slightly desperate looking long balls and the manager’s patience snapped. Suddenly he was off his bucket, shouting and gesticulating in full-on Tony Pulis mode.

It did not take his players long to take the hint. If the moment when David Raya did well to tip Ezgjan Alioski’s shot to safety suggested they were belatedly getting their act together, confirmation arrived when, under concerted pressure, Blackburn’s Derrick Williams turned Jack Harrison’s cross into his own net. The move was initiated by Pontus Jansson. The Sweden centre-half’s knack of seamlessly transforming defence into attack is a Leeds strong point and once again it had proved pivotal.

After Alioski’s fiercely curling shot rebounded off the bar Blackburn wobbled but then Luke Ayling fouled Charlie Mulgrew in the box and the Scot extended his left foot to convert the penalty himself.

Parity prompted end-to-end excitement. Many teams arrive at Leeds, sit deep and hope to sneak a counterattacking goal but Mowbray urged Rovers to pass and move their way through the home side and it very nearly worked.

Although Jansson made some important interceptions, it seemed his side had been “Bielsa-ed” when, in the 90th minute, Mulgrew scored again, this time sending a 25-yard free-kick imperiously around the wall. Slow to react, Peacock-Farrell could only help the ball into the bottom corner.

Some Leeds fans started streaming out but two minutes into stoppage time a goalmouth scramble concluded with Raya parrying Jansson’s header and Roofe squeezing the rebound home. Blackburn’s bench urged the referee to blow his whistle but there was still time for a free-kick to be only partially cleared and Roofe to dart between two defenders, meet a cross, head the winner and hear the decibel level soar.

“Football’s about fine margins,” said Mowbray. “It’s frustrating but it wasn’t to be – and Leeds are very good. They’re also expertly managed.”