Match Report: Aston Villa 1-0 Leeds - Lewis grabs winning goal as Whites lose again
Saturday, 14th Apr 2018 12:03 by @LucasMonk_
In a televised duel at the grandiose Villa Park, a youthful Leeds United team were narrowly defeated on Friday night by a vastly more experienced Aston Villa side gunning for promotion.
Paul Heckingbottom is still pursuing a first away victory as Leeds United head coach after Lewis Grabban’s 17th Championship goal of the season condemned his team to a narrow defeat away to Aston Villa.
United, whose starting lineup had an average age of merely 23, remain 14th in the table after this, their latest defeat - though 15th-placed Queens Park Rangers will overtake them if they beat Preston at Loftus Road today.
The visitors provided an initial moment of fright for their heavily fancied hosts when Ezgjan Alioski’s rasping effort from distance stung the palms of Sam Johnstone in the Villa net with just three minutes played.
But the Villains thereupon set about seizing control of the match, and, in the 14th minute, Bailey Peacock-Farrell was soon called into action to parry clear a left-footed effort from former United winger Robert Snodgrass before Paudie O’Connor made a determined block to deny Jack Grealish just moments later.
Grealish and then Jonathan Kodjia would see further efforts - in the 23rd and 26th minute respectively - blocked before their side edged in front on 29 minutes.
An inaccurate cross by Ahmed Elmohamady was kept in play by Grealish, who crossed from the left for Lewis Grabban. The Bournemouth loanee made no mistake as Matthew Pennington meekly allowed him to plant a powerful header past Peacock-Farrell to hand the hosts a deserved advantage.
That goal elicited nothing from United, and so the pressure did not abate until the half-time interlude; Grealish saw a curling effort from outside the area saved, before Josh Onomah extricated himself from the clutches of several opposing defenders before wildly lashing the ball wide.
Leeds appeared an ever so slightly more threatening team after the break, which saw the impotent Caleb Ekuban replaced by the dynamic Samuel Saiz, with Kalvin Phillips’ strike into the ground following a corner being cleared by the well-placed Glenn Whelan just five minutes into the second half.
That would be the closest United came to an equalising goal; Tom Pearce, Ronaldo Vieira and Alioski would all chance their arm subsequently but their wayward efforts failed to trouble Johnstone in between the sticks.
Despite his side’s second half performance being far removed from their assertive first half display, Grabban saw himself presented with a gilt-edged chance to make the points safe shortly thereafter. A sumptuous cross from the right by Snodgrass found the forward inside the area with only Peacock-Farrell to beat - but the goalkeeper superbly denied him a second of the match with a marvellous save to keep Leeds in the match.
Villa’s next opportunity to seal victory and, with it, play-off qualification arose in the 75th minute when substitute Albert Adomah was played in on goal by Grealish, but again Peacock-Farrell made plain his credentials, keeping out the Ghanaian’s low, driven effort.
The hosts continued to apply attacking pressure in search of a second goal - even though no further threat was forthcoming from United - and Mile Jedinak should have headed it home just a minute later when a set-piece found him unmarked in the area.
The Australian could only head wide, but it mattered not. Villa negotiated the game’s remainder without difficulty and thus secured play-off qualification, United's deserted pre-season ambition, thanks to Grabban’s fifth goal for the club.
For Leeds, the result sees them remain 14th in the Championship table having obtained 54 points from 43 matches, with Paul Heckingbottom’s side having won just twice in their last 20 matches.
Small rays of positivity beaconed eminently from Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Paudie O’Connor and Tom Pearce, the youthful triumvirate putting many of their older, more experienced teammates to shame with excellent performances that belied their inexperience, but the United supporters deserve better.
They deserve better than Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who did no more than languidly perambulate around Villa Park as though he was in an actual park savouring the sight of swaying trees and gushing water fountains in what was perhaps the most pathetic, pitiful cameo in recent history. They deserve better than two wins in 20 games.
Although United were not devoid of endeavour in the second period, it was patently clear to see that, yet again, they were simply not good enough. Many supporters are beginning to question Paul Heckingbottom’s fitness for the role of head coach, but his honesty, honesty as refreshing as a cool beer on a fusty, hot summer’s day, in accepting this fact must be admired.
No spiel. No spin. Not flash, just Paul, whose candour ought to garner him respect at such a desperate time.
What would go some way to garnering him a little, though, is a victory against struggling Barnsley, his erstwhile employers, in a Yorkshire derby next Saturday.
Doing so would certainly not mean a great deal in the context of United’s abject season, but it would aid Heckingbottom in securing his position for next season.
Aston Villa (4-1-4-1): Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Jedinak, Taylor; Whelan; Snodgrass, Grealish, Onomah (Samba 85’), Grabban (Hogan 78’); Kodjia (Adomah 67’).
Unused Subs: Bunn, Bree, Hourihane, Lansbury.
Leeds United (4-4-1-1): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, O’Connor, Pennington, Pearce; Alioski (Grot 66’), Phillips, Vieira, Hernandez; Roofe (Lasogga 78’); Ekuban (Saiz 45’).
Unused Subs: Lonergan, Struijk, Anita, O’Kane.
Match Statistics (A. Villa / Leeds)
Shots: 17 / 9
On target: 5 / 2
Possession: 53% / 47%
Corners: 5 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 10
Referee: Tony Harrington.
Man of the Match: Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds).
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Photo: Action Images
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