YEP jury verdict: Leeds United’s ‘play-off spirit’ was there for all to see against Aston Villa

Man of the match, Kalvin Phillips. PIC: Bruce RollinsonMan of the match, Kalvin Phillips. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Man of the match, Kalvin Phillips. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
The result wasn’t what Leeds United or their fans wanted, but the manner in which the Whites went about their business against Aston Villa was – for the most part at least – just what the doctor ordered with the promotion play-offs looming.

The Yorkshire Evening Post’s jurors also agree that they have never seen anything quite like the conflagration that blew up following Mateusz Klich’s opening goal.

Here’s what they have to say; see if you agree.

David Watkins

Goalscorer, Mateusz Klich. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA WireGoalscorer, Mateusz Klich. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA Wire
Goalscorer, Mateusz Klich. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA Wire

Wow! That game had pretty much everything! For me, the most important thing was that Leeds showed fight and determination against a top side in great form – just the boost we need heading into the play-offs.

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It may well have been a dress rehearsal for the final, who knows.

With an incredible 27 goal attempts, albeit against a side with 10 men for a period , that must hold us in good stead for our final regular game next Sunday and then the two-legged play-off semi-final. We have been guilty of missing chances and looking frail at the back too lately but we showed that, on our day, we can mix it with the best. OK, our shooting was again way less than perfect as numerous efforts flew wide or high but, sooner or later, we will get a break and someone will pay; let’s hope it’s in the semi!

Above all, the will to win and the fighting spirit was there in abundance: I feel far more confident about reaching that Wembley final now than I did when leaving Brentford last weekend!

Leeds United's no-nonsense centre-half, Pontus Jansson (Left) tackles Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA WireLeeds United's no-nonsense centre-half, Pontus Jansson (Left) tackles Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA Wire
Leeds United's no-nonsense centre-half, Pontus Jansson (Left) tackles Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings. PIC: Clint Hughes/PA Wire

Man of the match: Mateusz Klich.

Matthew Evans

This was just the sort of performance we needed to reinvigorate the Leeds United spirit ahead of a crucial play-off final campaign – the only remaining route out of the Sky Bet Championship available for us now this season.

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We looked very good against an in-form Aston Villa side and that’s allowing for what I considered to be an abysmal refereeing performance that added the spice that might have otherwise been missing.

The main talking point of the game was Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s decision – bizarre in my opnion – to offer Villa a free goal following Mateusz Klich’s controversial opener as the United players chose to play on with Villa’s Kodija stranded at the other end of the pitch.

The likes of Adam Forshaw, Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling and Klich looked back to their best and Kalvin Phillips, our new corner specialist, took the final home man-of-the-match performance of the regular season.

We’ll be looking for more of the same in the remaining weeks of the campaign.

Man of the match: Kalvin Phillips.

Shaun Smith

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Drama. Some of it pure theatrics. Referee Stuart Attwell set the bar very low, very early on with some nitpicking that left himself nowhere to go.

Jack Grealish dived. Players appealled. There was much falling over. There often is at Elland Road.

So, when one more hit the deck, a seasonful of frustration led to Leeds not putting the ball out and Mateusz Klich, doing what the song suggests, scored.

In the Festival of Handbags that ensued, Patrick Bamford took a dive and stooped to their level.

The rule is to play to the whistle.

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It is also frowned upon by many Leeds fans to play-act. Marcelo Bielsa was right to order an unopposed goal.

What might have happened if the game actually mattered is something to consider and then promptly feel glad that one doesn’t have to.

The red card to Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi will be overturned and all the more spice to a season that has gone beyond vindaloo.

Man of the match: Kalvin Phillips.

Michael Gill

Any thoughts that this game would play out as a jaded, meaningless encounter were soon dispelled as the two sides went about their work with gusto.

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As is customary, Leeds had the most chances in the first half but Villa had the best ones.

But it will be the second half that people will remember. Referee, Stuart Attwell, gradually lost control of the game as Villa and, in particular, Jack Grealish dived, tumbled and showed almost terminal agony before recovering quickly once the whistle was blown.

Leeds had the better of the second half and repeatedly battered the Villa goal. Close to the halfway line Liam Cooper legitimately clattered Jonathan Kotjia who stayed down. Many fans thought it was another stunt and maybe Attwell did too as he waved play on. Roberts passed the ball to Klich who cut in and scored with a fine effort. Chaos ensued and in the mass brawl, El Ghazi was sent off for felling Bamford who must have been watching Grealish.

Then on Bielsa’s instruction, Adomah was allowed to walk the ball into the Leeds goal. Compliance came from all except Pontus Jansson who tried to stop it single handedly.

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Great sportsmanship or a clever ploy to gain the moral high ground in a future fixture? Who knows?

Man of the match: Kalvin Phillips.

Keith Ingham

The curtain came down on another regular season quietly, NOT! The amazing and enthralling contest at Elland Road just about had everything in it’s 90-plus minutes.

Despite two victories and other results elsewhere, Leeds picked themselves off the floor, dusted down their white uniforms and tore into a team that had won 10 straight games.

This was just what the 36k-plus fans needed to see from their team.

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True, the old problem still occurred, putting the ball in the back of their opponents’ net but the defence which looked porous previously stood like lions to stop ‘Jack Grealish & Co’ whenever they threatened.

Villa also tried every trick in the book to con a very poor Premier League referee. Mr Attwell hopefully has better days than Sunday.

Leeds tried their best to get a winner but Jed Steer denied a few goal-bound efforts and Villa continued their time-wasting tactics to run the clock down at every opportunity, so the game ended 1-1.

Bring on the play-offs!

The game will be remembered most for an incredible six or seven minutes from the 72nd minute.

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First, with a Villa player prone just outside the Leeds area, the ball was moved up the line by Leeds substitute Tyler Roberts instead of putting the ball out of play.

Klich took the ball into the Villa area and put the ball past Steer.

From then on, a mass ‘confrontation’ ensued with Bamford clashing with El Ghazi. The Villa man was sent off for his actions against the Leeds striker.

From the re-start, on Marcelo Bielsa’s order, the Leeds players, except Pontus Jansson, allowed Villa to walk through their ranks to score the equaliser.

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It was a sportsman’s gesture by the Argentinian head coach but his act was not met with agreement from the fans or some of his players, especially the Swedish centre-half.

I’ve never seen anything like it at Leeds in all my 40-plus years of supporting them.

Man of the match: Liam Cooper (I thought our captain was excellent throughout).

Andy Rhodes

Well, where to start? I’ve never seen a game like it and probably never will again.

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The main aim for Leeds was to come away with confidence heading into the play offs. In the end, they got more than that.

The scenes for Mateusz Klich’s goal were a farce, as was the whole incident in general. Despite the likes of Jack Grealish being awarded foul after foul, the Villa players didn’t play to the whistle when it counted.

In that respect it was a perfectly valid goal and, from their performance, Leeds deserved to be ahead.

However, it says a lot about Marcelo Bielsa’s integrity and the type of man he is.

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Three points would have guaranteed a third-place finish for United but, for Bielsa, fair play is more important than victory.

Ironically, the most threatening Villa looked all afternoon was when they walked the ball into the empty net.

If they are the pundits’ favourites for the play-offs then Leeds United must surely in with a shout.

Man of the match: Pontus Jansson.