It’s certainly been a season for offbeat and at times crazy Aston Villa games. 5-5 draws, injury-time madness and now a bizarre goal in the name of sportsmanship.
The truth be told, as the game went on, the likely outcome of Leeds and Villa locking horns in a surprisingly feisty encounter, was a 0-0 draw, with wasteful finishing undermining both teams high energy and fight.
To be fair, both teams also defended very well and were only breached when they literally stopped defending.
If their paths cross again in the play-offs, Villa will no doubt benefit from getting a refresher in what to expect from Leeds. The 1-1 draw, despite finishing the game unjustly with 10 men, will also boost the players’ confidence in the resilience they are now repeatedly demonstrating.
So, until the last game of the regular season against Norwich, here’s five reasons to be cheerful…
Are You Not Being Entertained?
On the entertainment front April was lined up as a month for epic climax. The eagerly awaited Games of Thrones eighth and final season kicked off, while the Avengers Endgame hit cinemas, delivering the climax to the journey of earth’s mightiest heroes and their recent Infinity War.
Also, after winning all their games in March, B6’s heroes Aston Villa had jockeyed themselves into play-off contention from out of nowhere and in April they didn’t disappoint. There were injury-time miracles at Sheffield Wednesday, a 10-men fightback at Rotherham and beating Bristol City without Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings, in what was effectively a play-off quarter-final.
The latest crazy shenanigans at Elland Road were the latest example of how Villa have delivered top box-office in terms of pure drama and entertainment.
Remember how in the play-off final against Fulham last season, Villa limply lost without winning a corner in the game and only registering two shots on target? How life has changed since.
One thing is for sure, come May, whatever our end game, it will no doubt be a dramatic climax.
The secret to dealing with Leeds United at their best is ultimately you have to match their physicality and dynamism. If you don’t, they will bully you and most likely beat you.
Casting an eye to potential play-off opposition, Villa proved at Elland Road, they have a team that has grit and determination to match Leeds, if they go toe-to-toe.
By the reaction of Tyrone Mings as he left the pitch and in his post-match interview, he relished and enjoyed the battle. This was a great sign, as was the success of John McGinn and Axel Tuanzebe from a physical point-of-view during the game.
Conor Hourihane also proved when the going gets tough, he gets stuck in. If Smith gets to pick from a completely fit squad, if Villa play Leeds again, his main decision will be choosing between Whelan and Hourihane. It’s going to be a close call.
Another encounter with Leeds at Wembley will no doubt be a toe-to-toe fire fight and with our first XI, we more than match them in that department and we’ll have a certain 25-goal striker the next time too.
A huge foundation to Villa’s improved toughness and resilience has been the Villa rearguard. While Jack Grealish’s return has grabbed the headlines, an equal reason behind Villa’s recording-breaking 10-game winning streak was the all improved backline. Mings and Tuanzebe were first rate against Leeds and will give Villa confidence going into the play-offs.
Hopefully, Kortney Hause and Tommy Elphick can get back to full fitness before the play-offs start, as Villa are currently one defensive injury away from having their play-off campaign compromised.
While Mile Jedinak filled in admirably recently, you wouldn’t fancy him on the wide open pitch of Wembley, if Villa reached the final.
James Chester’s return to full training is welcome, but the play-offs maybe coming too soon for him.
Credit must go to Dean Smith for suggesting to his Leeds counterpart what the sporting thing to do was after Leeds dubiously taken opening goal – i.e. give Villa a goal back. It’s alright getting angry and venting steam pitch side, but Smith took the positive step to cancel out a negative situation.
Huge credit must also go to Marcelo Bielsa for agreeing to the proposal and acting on it. He instantly took away a potentially very bitter taste from Villa supporters’ mouths and potentially covered up the poor standard of the officials.
Now about that El Ghazi red card…rescind, rescind, rescind!
Adomah’s goal…almost as easy as Alan Hutton’s goal against Birmingham City at Villa Park!