LEICESTER – American 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 falling to a 1-0 loss at Leicester on Saturday.
Harvey Barnes’ well-taken 67th-minute goal was enough to earn victory for Leicester and leave Leeds at risk of being further embroiled in the fight against relegation.
It was Leeds’ first game since Marsch replaced the fired Marcelo Bielsa as manager and the American tweaked the formation and approach of the team, while retaining its renowned intensity on and off the ball.
Showing lots of passion and extremely active on the touchline, Marsch — wearing jeans and a sweater — saw Leeds create a number of clear-cut chances before Barnes broke the deadlock. The best fell to Raphinha, whose close-range effort 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,” Marsch said, “to have changed a lot of the tactics and to have played in all phases of the game with clarity, to be very stable at the back, to give not much away, to control the game for many stretches, I am really proud and pleased with the group and how far, in four or five days, we have come.”
Leicester made Leeds pay when Barnes exchanged a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho and placed a low finish through the legs of defender Luke Ayling and into the far corner.
It was a third straight win for Leicester, which moved into midtable in a season where the big target in the final 2½ months appears to be winning the Europa Conference League.
Leeds wasn't helped by having to play the final few minutes effectively with 10 men after Tyler Roberts, the team's third and final substitute, sustained a suspected hamstring injury. He played on but could barely run.
Marsch got his players in a huddle on the field after the game before getting them to applaud Leeds' traveling fans before returning to the locker room.
The former U.S. international, back in management three months after leaving Leipzig, described it as a “big first step” for Leeds under his leadership.
“It’s a shame in our sport that it’s not always so fair,” Marsch said. “To play so well, to come to a tough place to play, to perform like that, it doesn't feel right that we didn’t get what we think we deserve.”
Leeds started the game two points above the relegation zone and had let in 20 goals in February — the most conceded by a team in a single month in Premier League history.
“I understand there's stress here because the points are important right now,” Marsch said, "but we have to stay clear to our process and it has to be a condensed process.
“We have to keep understanding how we want to play and maintain a clear, fresh mindset that helps us grow and get better every day.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports