London (AFP) – Leeds United’s lead at the top of the second-tier English Championship was cut to one point after a week of further spying revelations ended with a 2-1 loss away to Stoke City.
Far from backing down after admitting to sending a club employee to spy on a Derby training session ahead of as 2-0 win over the Rams, this week saw Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa insist he had taken the same approach with all of their Championship opponents this season.
Sam Clucas gave Stoke a second-half lead before Leeds were reduced to 10 men when Pontus Jansson was sent off.
Joe Allen doubled Stoke’s lead before Leeds grabbed a consolation goal deep into stoppage time through Ezgjan Alioski.
This was Nathan Jones’s first win as Stoke manager and the Potters boss, previously in charge of Luton, said he had changed his formation to 3-5-2 in response to Bielsa’s latest comments.
“It’s been well-publicised Marcelo watched 26 Luton games and two Stoke games, so he’s well drilled on what our usual formation is,” said Jones.
“So we thought we may have to give him a surprise because, if he’s that well drilled on us, they’ve had plenty of time to work on it, so it’d be a difficult afternoon.”
Meanwhile, Bielsa refused to blame this defeat on not watching Stoke’s pre-match training session.
“We can’t say we ignored the features of the opponent,” said Bielsa. “We just didn’t take advantage of the possibilities we had.
“Maybe the analysis I’m making of the game isn’t the right one,” the veteran Argentinian manager added.
Second-placed Norwich’s win at home to Birmingham on Friday cut Leeds’ advantage to one point, with the top two set to meet at Elland Road on February 2.
– Blades beaten by Swansea –
But Sheffield United failed to regain second place after a 1-0 loss at Swansea in Saturday’s late kick-off, with Oliver McBurnie scoring the only goal of the game in the 65th minute.
Middlesbrough, with West Brom not playing until Monday, missed a chance to close in on the top two after being held to a 1-1 draw by Millwall.
Jed Wallace put visitors Millwall in front in the first half and it looked like the London club would leave the northeast with all three points until Jordan Hugill’s last-minute penalty ensured a draw for Boro.
Elsewhere, there was no fairytale return for Martin O’Neill, with his first match as Nottingham Forest manager ending in a 1-0 defeat by Bristol City.
O’Neill won the European Cup as a Forest player under celebrated manager Brian Clough and received a fine ovation from home fans at the City Ground on Saturday.
But O’Neill, whose own extensive managerial career has included spells in charge of Leicester, Celtic, Aston Villa and the Republic of Ireland, saw Forest lose after Bristol City’s Famara Diedhiou scored midway through the second half.
Ipswich, like Forest a major force in English football in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were left bottom of the table after a 2-0 loss to Blackburn.
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