Aston Villa emerged from tonight’s game with a point - when it could well be argued that they should have left with none! A fightback, inspired by the most unlikely player managed to ensure Villa weren’t totally embarrassed.
Leeds put the pressure on Villa early in the game, utilising some tricky play on the flanks. Making a difference from the usual, Villa hung on very well - this is where the AVFC of old would have collapsed. Perhaps.
Leeds were gifted a divine opportunity when a communication error between Sam Johnstone and James Chester led to the ball freewheeling off the keeper and through the box. Mistakes like that cannot be made away from the comfort of home.
With seventy-percent possession of the ball, Leeds were allowed a lot of comfort, and the pitch of Elland Road performed more like a lounge for the Lilywhites and the comfortable atmosphere eventually turned into something tangible for Leeds as Pontus Jansson lost Chris Samba and nodded the ball past Sam Johnstone into the Villa net. It could easily be said that Samba lost Jansson far too simply, but it must be noted that Jansson rustled Samba in a class manner - compliments must be paid to the Leeds man.
Villa did well to keep their heads up, and a massive chance opened up for the Villans as Glenn Whelan found himself with plenty of time on the edge of the box, only to fire the ball wide. A huge disappointment after a decent run of form for the Irishman.
The first half of the match was extremely uneventful, but a hungry Leeds team managed to put the fear into Aston Villa with a rapid press. Instead of sapping Leeds of their energy with a patient build up, Villa tried to run the ball into Leeds and lost it, a lot, thanks to some sloppy passing and rushed decisions. This frustration was personified by both Josh Onomah, who couldn’t do anything right - and Robert Snodgrass, who ended up earning a yellow card for a pointless foul.
It’s worrying to see Villa fail to control a game, yes - it was away to a big club with a huge following - but Villa have one of the best teams in the league. It’s time to start exerting that influence.
Aston Villa managed to emerge in the second half, seeming a lot more comfortable. A huge chance emerged after Albert Adomah capitalised on Luke Ayling’s mistimed lunge, but the tricky winger missed from close range.
At the other end, Samuel Saiz crossed a dangerous ball in, but it evaded everyone - in both colours. At this point, it should be considered an incredible failure for Leeds to not be up by a score of multiple goals.
Villa did concede again, from another set-piece, but Liam Cooper for Leeds was caught well offside. This is a huge red flag for Aston Villa, despite the fact that the ‘goal’ was ruled out.
Steve Bruce made his first big move of the game in the 64th minute as Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury came on for the gassed Conor Hourihane and the disappointing Josh Onomah. This would prove to be a masterstroke, and a much needed change.
Following a poor tackle between Luke Ayling and Neil Taylor, Jack Grealish played Henri Lansbury in - with the returning man striking home into the Leeds goal.
Villa’s spirit shone through late in the match, with the whole team becoming bolstered through the presence of Henri Lansbury and Jack Grealish - who ran the show in a number of ways. It must be said that the entire team stepped up when the pair came on, including Glenn Whelan.
Steve Bruce will need to improve, especially after conceding such a sloppy goal - but you can’t help but feel happy at this 1-1 result and the single point, especially when the Villa of the past would have left with nothing.