By Joe Roberts

15th Oct, 2023 | 8:40am

Bulgarian media reacts to Ilia Gruev display as Leeds United man plays in defence v Lithuania

Leeds United man Ilia Gruev started for Bulgaria on Saturday (14 October) as his nation suffered a 2-0 defeat to Lithuania.

In a Euro 2024 qualifier, Gruev’s side were taken down by a Pijus Sirvys brace at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Bulgaria, with much of the national press highly critical of the team.

With just two points in their qualification group, Bulgaria and Gruev are on the brink of missing the championships in Germany next summer.

BTA (14 October) was highly critical of the Bulgarian side, and singled out Gruev for his poor performance, noting: “Leeds United’s new signing Ilia Gruev also has no explanation as to why the series of ridiculous losses, poor results”.

Simeon Kichukov of the newspaper Dnevnik (14 October) fumed at the “toothless” performance from the side, noting that Bulgaria boss Mladen Krstajic “continued” to deploy Gruev in the defence. “By the end of the match, there were still a number of mistakes in Bulgaria’s defence”, wrote Kichukov.

Trud News (14 October) claimed it was “total shame” for the national side, but highlighted a key moment for Gruev when “a ball kicked” by the Elland Road man led to a one-on-one chance, which was subsequently missed.

Not ideal

Gruev has struggled to make waves at Leeds United since his summer arrival but remains in contention and as a starter for his country. However, his return to Bulgaria during this international break was one to forget.

Bulgaria looks set to miss out on Euro 2024 qualification following their defeat to Lithuania with just two points on the board. The side has not won a competitive game since March, so the outpour of media anger was understandable.

While his side played poorly, Gruev himself seemed to make some good contributions to his side, but the strength of the Lithuanians proved too much for the Lions.

Gruev will hope for more game time back in Yorkshire once his international duties are over but still has a friendly against Albania to contend with before a return to Elland Road. His international display would not have done much to help him into the side, but Gruev will still have something to offer Daniel Farke this season.

In other Leeds United news, a journalist said an Elland Road man has “underperformed” this season and pinpointed the area he must improve.