Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it has limitations. When Leeds United decided not to repay Aston Villa’s earlier decency at Elland Road, by kicking the ball out of play, so an injured Jonathan Kodjia could receive treatment, Dean Smith could have been left to express his feelings on Leeds’ lack of sportsmanship in his post-match interviews. Instead, the Villa Head Coach reacted in the moment to do something about it.
“I suggested to Marcelo Bielsa that they should let us go through and score and he agreed,” said Smith, after the 1-1 draw at Elland Road.
It’s sportsmanship that you rarely see on such a scale in football and Smith accordingly praised his opposite number.
“I am full of respect for him for that,” said Smith of Bielsa.
Would Bielsa have made such a gesture if it was the play-off final? Would many other bosses have agreed to it? It’s hard to say.
Bielsa in one act of decency pretty much waved away doubts of his moral standing, that had arisen earlier this season due to spygate.Embed from Getty Images
The Leeds boss had made the right call and restored order to the match, after the game’s officials embarrassingly let the game spiral unnecessarily out of control.
The poorest moment of their underwhelming officiating was Villa’s red card.
If Anwar El Ghazi’s sending off proved anything, it was the need for VAR in the Championship, when you consider the stakes such a game could have had. If Leeds had a couple more points and Villa a couple less going into the game, the stakes would have been considerably higher when considering the financial ramifications of promotion to the Premier League.
With VAR, Patrick Bamford would have received yellow or worse for his blatant cheating and Villa would have finished with 11 men on the pitch, allowing them to go for the win.
You wouldn’t have been surprised if Villa CEO Christian Purslow emailed the appeal for El Ghazi’s ban (which would mean he’d miss the next three games) from the stands, while the game was still in play.
“The appeal will be in already!” joked Smith, afterwards.
“I’ve seen it back and he doesn’t do anything that nobody else does within that situation.
I think Patrick Bamford goes as if he’s been hit. He’s nowhere near him. He’s not touched him.
As it stands, it’s a three match ban but we will certainly make an appeal and I’d be amazed if that isn’t rescinded when three different, independent people watch it.”
The decision should be a no-brainer and Bamford needs to receive some form of retrospective punishment for blatant simulation with the intention to get a fellow professional into trouble.
Smith also voiced his concerns about Leeds’ treatment of Grealish, with Villa’s opponents knowing that if the Villa’s captain picked up a knock, it would benefit them in the play-offs.
“I thought it was a little bit of target practice on Jack Grealish’s legs today,” reflected Smith.
“He has to be protected more than he is because, as I have said before, he’s a talented player and the officials have to make sure these sort of talents are protected.”
On the subject of bookings, Smith confirmed that he’ll leave John McGinn out against Norwich, after the Scottish midfielder picked up his 14th yellow card of the season. If he picked up another one in regular season (i.e. against Norwich City), he’d miss the play-offs.
“I am sure John McGinn will be sitting out that one!” Said Smith, looking ahead to the final game of the season.