Match Report: Leeds United 1-1 Aston Villa - Workmanlike Whites draw in game of two halves
Saturday, 2nd Dec 2017 02:18 by @LucasMonk_
In an eagerly anticipated televised duel against fellow play-off aspirants Aston Villa, Leeds United produced a competent performance to draw 1-1 at Elland Road on Friday night.
In a diligent, competent but ultimately unremarkable performance, Leeds United laboured to a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in a highly competitive encounter.
Pontus Jansson’s first Leeds goal at Elland Road will doubtless have been a moment to cherish for the 26-year-old Swedish central defender, but his emphatic header in the 19th minute did not give rise to what would have been a crucial home victory. Having endured a torrid first half, opponents Aston Villa secured a valuable point away from home owing to a driven, right-footed effort by Henri Lansbury with 19 minutes of normal time remaining.
United head coach Thomas Christiansen, following his team’s commendable victory away to Barnsley last Saturday, elected to make a solitary change to the lineup that secured three points at Oakwell in Leeds’ last outing. Ronaldo Vieira, having served a one-game suspension, replaced Eunan O’Kane in central midfield.
Following a customary coin toss, Leeds began proceedings with the Whites attacking the South Stand in the first half.
The first notable opportunity for either side arose in the eighth minute; after an expeditious counterattack, Aston Villa’s Albert Adomah elicited a low save from Felix Wiedwald, who reacted attentively to a feeble effort by the Ghana international.
Shortly thereafter, Samuel Sáiz chanced his arm from range for the visitors, only to see his effort blocked defiantly by an opposing defender.
After Adomah’s timid effort in the eighth minute, Villa threatened once more when 19-year-old Keinan Davis, who was functioning as a lone striker in the absence of Jonathan Kodjia and Scott Hogan, surged into the penalty area at speed - fortuitously for United, Pontus Jansson made an impeccably timed defensive challenge to avert the danger.
In the 15th minute, Pablo Hernández crossed for Kalvin Phillips, who unfortunately could not make contact with the ball; Sáiz then passed for Hernández on the periphery of the opposing penalty area, but the latter’s effort flew innocuously wide.
A mere three minutes passed before former Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass unleashed a low shot toward goal from the verge of the United penalty area, forcing home goalkeeper Wiedwald into a comfortable save.
Leeds then counterattacked as the fleet-footed Caleb Ekuban seized upon a through ball and won a corner, from which the hosts established a marginal advantage.
From the consequent set-piece, Hernández manufactured a delivery of great splendor and precision and the ball was met emphatically by the head of Jansson, who had managed to evade the defensive endeavours of Christopher Samba to plant a powerful header into the net at the near post.
The next conspicuous goalscoring opportunity would arise in the 33rd minute. Davis’ alacritous venture to the byline on the right resulted in him pulling the ball back for the onrushing Glenn Whelan, but the Republic of Ireland midfielder could only produce an imprecise effort which went wide of the mark.
In the 42nd minute, the hosts were dealt an injurious blow when Hernández, the creator of the opening goal, was substituted for Kemar Roofe after sustaining an injury.
United then spurned a gilt-edged chance to double their advantage only moments prior to the half-time interlude; a splendid set-piece delivery from the left channel by Ezgjan Alioski was met by the head of Liam Cooper, who could only direct his header over the crossbar.
Neither manager opted to make any alterations to their team during the interval, and so the sides emerged unchanged for the second period with Aston Villa beginning the half as Leeds had begun the first.
Having been denied a first career goal at Elland Road in his seventh match at the stadium during the first half by home goalkeeper Wiedwald, Villa’s Adomah would be thwarted by the German once more in the 55th minute. After a missed interception by United’s Luke Ayling, the dynamic winger, with great haste, sprinted into the area before firing a low effort toward goal which Wiedwald kept out with a respectable save.
Leeds would then dissipate another glorious opportunity to extend their advantage two minutes later. Sáiz’s splendid cross across the face of goal inexplicably evaded the attacking endeavours of Alioski, Ekuban and Roofe, much to the vexation of the home supporters.
United ephemerally appeared to have increased the margin of their lead five minutes afterward. With a towering header, central defender Cooper guided the ball into the back of the net - only for the linesman to raise his flag.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce then elected to make a double substitution; Conor Hourihane and Josh Onomah were replaced by Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury respectively.
The wily 56-year-old’s adjustments would soon come to have a decisive influence on the outcome of the match.
With 68 minutes of play elapsed, United goalkeeper Wiedwald was called into a save once more, this time having to punch clear a threatening set-piece delivery - this particular phase of play culminated in a pusillanimous effort by Lansbury that was wide of the mark.
In spite of that miss, the Villains would conjure an equaliser just three minutes later. Villa’s left-back, Neil Taylor, was subjected to a hefty defensive challenge by Leeds’ Jansson inside the United half, but the ball fell serendipitously into the path of Lansbury, whose sumptuous, driven right-footed shot eluded an impotent Wiedwald and found the bottom corner. The goal, which the visitors had been threatening to score for an appreciable duration of the match, prompted delirious celebrations among the travelling supporters. With 19 minutes of normal time remaining, the momentum was Villa’s.
In marked contrast to other junctures in the season at which United crumbled after conceding a goal from a winning position, the hosts held firm and negotiated the remainder of the match with resilience. Neither side managed to manufacture a clear opportunity with which to score what would have surely been a decisive, winning goal - and so both teams had to settle for a point apiece, leaving the pitch to warm applause from their respective groupings of adoring supporters.
The result, temporarily, elevates Leeds to seventh position, with United having now accrued 30 points thus far this season; though it should be noted that Middlesbrough, in 8th position, possess a game in hand against Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, Aston Villa remain the occupants of fourth position, having accumulated 36 points under the guidance of Steve Bruce in the present campaign.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Vieira, Phillips; Alioski (Grot 90+3’), Sáiz, Hernández (Roofe 42’); Ekuban (Sacko 83’).
Unused Substitutes: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Pennington, Anita.
Aston Villa (4-4-1-1) - Johnstone; Hutton, Samba, Chester, Taylor; Snodgrass, Whelan, Hourihane (Lansbury 65’), Adomah (Elmohamady 90+1’); Onomah (Grealish 65’); Davis.
Unused Substitutes: Steer, Elphick, De Laet, Bjarnarson.
Half-Time: Leeds United 1-0 Aston Villa - Jansson 19’
Full-Time: Leeds United 1-1 Aston Villa - Jansson 19’, Lansbury 71’
Match Statistics (Leeds / Villa)
Possession: 52% / 48%
Attempts: 7 / 8
On Target: 1 / 4
Pass Success: 73% / 67%
Aerial Duels: 48% / 52%
Corners: 5 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 16
Man of the Match: Pontus Jansson (Leeds).
The towering 26-year-old defensive juggernaut once more made plain his importance to Leeds United’s prospects with an imperious and commanding performance alongside Liam Cooper in central defence. He not only scored United’s crucial goal in this match, but the Sweden international also completed 88% of his passes, was successful in 71% of his aerial duels (more than any of his teammates in the match) and made 16 clearances. The former Torino defender has been a darling of the supporters since his arrival at Elland Road in the summer transfer window of 2016, and appears to be forming an efficacious partnership alongside Cooper - a development that augurs well for Leeds.
Booked: Jansson, Sáiz (Leeds). Hutton, Snodgrass, Hourihane (Villa).
Venue: Elland Road (capacity of 37,890).
Referee: Peter Bankes.
To have relinquished the lead in such unfortuitous circumstances was most dispiriting, but Leeds performed diligently and secured a satisfactory point against a strong and structured Aston Villa side that is abound with experience.
Furthermore, I consider that Leeds being divested of Pablo Hernández’s elan hindered their prospects of extending their advantage greatly, and it must be said that United’s failure to increase the margin of their lead was justly punished by a credible goal by Henri Lansbury later in the match. Indeed, set-pieces proved to be the mother of the vast majority of the opportunities presented to Leeds in the fixture, with the Whites struggling to carve Villa asunder in open play, and the necessary absence of Hernández after his sustaining of an injury was thus sorely felt.
Notwithstanding Lansbury’s sumptuous equaliser, I believe the United defence to have performed strongly and steadily; they were once more aided by ancillary defensive support on the part of Ronaldo Vieira, and perhaps the sole criticism one could have of any of the defenders was the fact that Gaetano Berardi scarcely ventured forward to support Leeds’ attacks - but even so, that is not a criticism of his defensive contribution. A formidable partnership has begun to emerge between Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, who were both efficient again in central defence, while Lansbury’s goal has been unduly ascribed by some supporters to Felix Wiedwald’s goalkeeping - though the German could do little to prevent the goal and had denied Albert Adomah twice prior to it arising.
The nimble Caleb Ekuban once more produced a workmanlike and alacritous performance; the forward persistently - and admirably - pursues lost causes in the hope of regaining possession for United and if he continues to perform with the same assiduity then he will doubtless begin to score goals.
Behind Ekuban, Samuel Sáiz and Kemar Roofe might have been able to make more impactful contributions to the outcome of the match had they received possession more frequently than they did. It could be said that United were perhaps too deferential to their opponents; there was no discernible endeavour to score a second goal after Jansson headed home the opener, a smattering of set-pieces and Sáiz’s elusive second half cross aside.
In the first period, Leeds performed competently and were merited leaders at the juncture of the half-time interlude - but this would prove to be a game of two strikingly divergent halves. In the second, Villa toiled and threatened an equaliser for an appreciable portion of the match before Lansbury eventually netted it and with United’s impotence in open play considered, a draw is an equitable outcome.
Finally, I looked on with pride as I observed Leeds’ support of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, which seeks to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport. I was also heartened by the profoundly heartfelt tribute to Gary Speed - it is imperative that the obstinate challenges of both discrimination against LGBT people and mental welfare are confronted and that awareness of them is heightened.
Focus now turns to next weekend’s match away to Queens Park Rangers, which is a pivotal clash for United in their bid for play-off qualification.
Photo: Action Images
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