Image Credit [NewsHub]
Bizzare scenes at Elland Road where Marcelo Bielsa instructed his players to let Villa score.
Many pundits predicted that Sunday’s meeting between Leeds United and Aston Villa would be a low-key affair with the end of season play offs looming ahead
Leeds went into the game knowing any hope of automatic promotion had realistically disappeared with Sheffield United’s win the previous evening. Aston Villa’s place in the play-offs was already secured and they were widely expected to rest several of their key players.
However, this is the Championship, where any prediction should be made with caution. What followed was a dramatic, incident packed 90 minutes played at an unrelenting pace. Both teams produced a performance full of commitment with Leeds dominating possession, but lacking a cutting edge, and the visitors always posed a threat through the likes of John McGinn and Jack Grealish.
The game however, will long be remembered for what happened in the 72nd minute, when Villa’s Jonathan Kodja went down injured. Villa’s players stopped, anticipating Leeds would knock the ball out of play in order for Kodja to get treatment. Instead, Tyler Roberts played the ball down the line for Mateusz Klich to cut in and fire past the Villa keeper Ged Steer. Mayhem then reigned, with confrontations and accusations between players and staff all over the pitch and side-line. In the immediate aftermath of the goal, beleaguered referee Stuart Attwell sent off Villa’s El Ghazi, a decision which has since been rescinded, with Patrick Bamford receiving a two match ban after the FA reviewed the incident.
After 5 minutes of arm waving and finger pointing, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to score an uncontested goal immediately from the re-start, with Albert Adomah given the task of scoring the strangest of goals. Leeds centre half Pontus Jansson did not appear to agree with his manager’s decision and almost intervened to tackle Adomah, but the striker managed to evade the challenge and slotted past a motionless Casilla in the Leeds goal.
The remainder of the game saw Leeds pressing, with Steer making a fine save from Hernandez in the 95th minute. Leeds were unable to find the winner, but will be encouraged that they produced a much more assured performance than in recent weeks. Villa’s impressive unbeaten run continues, and they will probably be seen by many as the form team going into the play-offs. This bizarre game will live long in the memory, and has whetted the appetite at the prospect of the two teams meeting in the play-offs.