Leeds United 1 (Klich 72)
Aston Villa 1 (Adomah 77)
We more senior of age Leeds fans think we have seen pretty much everything in our lifetimes and yet on a fairly regular basis something crops up in our games that still surprises and amazes us! This was one of those games!
Having watched Sheffield United and Norwich win their matches on Saturday we knew our fate was to be the play-offs. Initially that was a sickening feeling, a feeling that we had wasted a terrific opportunity for automatic promotion through our inability all season to convert just a few more of the myriad of half chances we have created every week and but for a bit more steel in defence. But by the time we kicked-off on Sunday lunchtime the mood had already changed. All we now needed to see from the team was that they were not suffering any lasting hangover from the realisation that we had more work to do. We did our part as the atmosphere was terrific in another full house Elland Road. And the team obliged us with a display of passion and heart that had no hint of dejection and that both fed on and fed the support from the stands. By the end of the game, having more than matched the form team in the division and many people’s favourites to win the play-offs, I at least was confident that we are still very much on for promotion.
The game will be remembered by most of course not for the Leeds performance but for the antics of a strangely cynical and conniving villa side that totally lost the plot midway in the second half. In my opinion Marcelo Bielsa went beyond the needs of the situation when he instructed his players to allow Villa to equalise and throughout the whole episode we saw a side of Villa that was both ugly, embarrassing and worrying as a new underhand development.
Throughout 90 minutes, a weak referee, Stuart Attwell, had failed to maintain control of a game in which the Villa players had tugged and niggled and dived and moaned throughout. Then, when Jonathan Kodjia tried and failed in his latest bid to con referee Attwell, as Liam Cooper fairly beat him to the ball, the Villa tactics backfired spectacularly; cheats never prosper they say! This time Attwell waved play on seeing that there was negligible contact and knowing Kodjia could not have been serious hurt; it was certainly not a head injury. Leeds too played on while Dean Smith on the touchline started pleading for the Leeds players to put the ball out as did some of the Villa players. We all know how this would have panned out had the situation been reversed! Roberts looked in two minds over what to do but eventually slid the ball through to Klich with the Villa back line now appealing for offside! When that wasn’t given they were in trouble of course and despite their best efforts Klich scored a fine goal.
Against most teams that should have been that – the referee immediately gave the goal and the Villa defenders initially just thought they’d screwed up. There was absolutely no problem with that goal and I know damn well if Villa had scored it there would have been no come back. But this Villa side, whipped up by their now embarrassed coaching staff, then went berserk in their efforts to destroy the Leeds celebrations and generally cause disruption. Villa players grabbed, pulled and even punched the Leeds players who did their best to not respond. Only Patrick Bamford let himself and all of us down as he took a dive in an obvious attempt to inflict further damage to the Villa cause. I’m sure most Leeds fans, like me, will not have appreciated Bam Bam stooping to the same low level as Villa showed.
I think in that chaotic moment of mayhem, Bielsa misjudged the situation and was swayed by the ferocity of the Villa reaction. In my humble opinion the goal was perfectly valid and what Bielsa has done is to open yet another gate through which the cheats in the game will drive a horse and carriage. I believe Villa embarrassed themselves but will feel they have pulled off something very clever.
We will see if I am right and if the cheats do put this episode in their back pockets knowing it is a possible get out of jail card they can whip out in similar circumstances in the future. The game has always been about playing to the whistle, let the referee decide when the game should be stopped; we cannot abrogate that responsibility to the players as they have shown all too often they cannot be trusted.
The only memory I want to take from the game is the resurgent attitude the Leeds players showed and the knowledge that we are mentally ready for the challenge ahead.
Leeds Utd Aston Villa
Possession 69% 31%
Shots 27 13
On Target 5 4
Corners 7 3
Fouls Committed 14 8