This Friday Aston Villa clash with Leeds United for the first time since the infamous meeting of Marcelo Bielsa and Dean Smith’s squads last year. Given the utter calamity that ensued at Elland Road it is only fitting that we set our minds back and remember the anarchy in preparation for this Friday.
The Build Up
By this point late on in the season both Villa and Leeds were flying high in the table. Leeds top of the playoff spots pushing for automatic promotion and even more impressive, Villa were on a record breaking 10 game winning streak, that’s 11 games undefeated. So needless to say the game was going to be pivotal in the outcome of the promotion places for the 18/19 season.
Leeds edged the odds as favourites but with no discredit to Villa who were guaranteed a play off spot regardless and were battling for momentum in the tournament.
With this in mind the game was going to be a meeting of two strong attacking sides with something to prove. The fight in the two sides was evident weeks before, so it certainly foreshadowed the desire to win this particular fixture by any means necessary.
A particular duel of players caught everyone’s eye. Fans from both clubs argued over who would get the better of the other, Jack Grealish or Kalvin Phillips. Grealish the attacking midfielder fresh from injury and in better form than ever versus Phillips the ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ arguably the best defensive midfielder in the league.
Flair versus fire. Two homegrown talents were due to face off in one of the most important games of the 18/19 Championship season.
It was a cagey match from the first whistle, neither team able to break down the other defence. The first 70 minutes of the match simply acted as proof of the quality of both teams, two of the best attacks in the league nullified by the opposition.
With the deadlock still intact the game was well and truly even. The points could be distributed any which way and it was all to play for… until that goal.
With the ball in the middle of the park Jonathan Kodjia dropped to the floor after a crunching challenge, he stayed down. Leeds had possession and both teams acknowledged this injury. Play slowed down and eventually halted but not for long as Tyler Roberts played a ball through to Mattheus Klich after making it seem like he would be kicking the ball out for Kodjia’s treatment.
Klich went on to score as Villa players battled to catch up with this head start. As anyone could predict, mayhem followed. The majority of both squads joined into a bust up the second the ball hit the net and to make matters worse the managers and staff on the sideline began to do battle too.
With this injustice in the heat of a promotion influencing game, emotions ran high which led to the trading of blows. In the middle of the disarray Leeds striker Patrick Bamford grabbed at Anwar El Ghazi causing him to swing around in retort. After no contact Bamford dived to the floor clutching his face resulting in an El Ghazi red card at the end of the madness.
But Leeds didn’t just display dishonesty in said game. To his full credit, Bielsa himself (after arguing with officials, Villa staff, his own staff and even his own players) ordered his team to allow Villa to score as the goal they had scored wasn’t one they had earned.
Albert Adomah and Neil Taylor dribbled the ball past a stationary Leeds team. Pontus Jansson the Swedish centre half however, had different ideas. He tried his best to tackle Adomah but to no avail, the ball was in the net. All square. 1-1.
The rest of the game was quiet, both teams just desperate not to lose after the 10 minute melee they had just participated in. Villa even played a defensive player (Mile Jedinak) at striker for the final moments of the game in order to ensure at least a point and to take us to 12 games undefeated. Full time and boos echoed around Elland Road as the Leeds faithful hurled abuse at Villa and the fans. Let it be known however, the disgust was reciprocated.
It’s funny looking back at what that game meant to both fan bases. Two seasons on and the game has created a strange impromptu rivalry between two of the biggest clubs in English football.
Part of the spite may be because had Leeds won that game then they were still in with a chance of automatic promotion. But they ended up landing in the play offs and failing to get past the semis. Villa on the other hand got promoted and manged to maintain their Premier League place to face Leeds now they have finally been promoted.
Another reason it’s interesting looking back is that Leeds and Villa enter the match on Friday in pretty similar form. Villa once again on a win streak, four games back to back and second in the league. Leeds also having a great start to their season, not the quality of their 18/19 campaign by any means but still great form and performing well in every match they’ve played.
Paying attention to this parallel makes me ever so slightly nervous. I think we will beat Leeds, I think we’re genuinely the better team. But my fear comes from the tension. This time it’s personal. Both teams have something to prove once again but this time it’s to one another. And if you take a look at what happened last time, and the context now. I dread to think what might be on the way.
A win for Villa though, of course.