A player sent off, two controversial goals and a lot of drama took place when the two teams met in the league on Sunday.
Amidst all the tension and frustration surrounding the Premier League, the attention of the footballing world has been diverted to one of the most bizarre incidents in the history of the game that took place in the second division of English football.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United side came into the game against Aston Villa knowing that anything less than victory would mean that automatic promotion into the Premier League would not be possible. Unfortunately for his side, the match will not be remembered for their triumphant return to the top flight but rather for all the controversy surrounding the two goals.
The most controversial goal of the season, bar NONE! ????
Leeds United score whilst Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia is down injured ￼????
A mass brawl kicks off! ????
Anwar El Ghazi gets sent off ???? pic.twitter.com/BHbLhr2uGb
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 28, 2019
The game was all even right up to the 72nd minute when Villa’s Johnathan Kodjia went down injured in his own half. The Villa players asked the player in possession, Tyler Roberts to put the ball out of play so that Kodjia could receive some treatment. However, Roberts instead opted to play the ball to a waiting Mateusz Klich who cut in onto his right foot and curled the ball into the Villa net. Cue pandemonium.
The Leeds scorer was confronted by a number of Villa players, with individual brawls breaking out all over the field. The brawl ended with Villa’s Anwar Ghazi being shown a red card for his clash with Patrick Bamford who was also booked.
Villa’s manager, Dean Smith, and his assistant, John Terry were both incandescent, with the latter pointing fingers in Bielsa’s face. When the melee on the pitch had subsided, Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to equalize straight from the kick-off, much to the disbelief of Leeds’ Swedish centre half, Pontus Janssen who did not take lightly to his manager’s orders.
The most incredible scenes we have EVER seen! You need to see this to believe it ????
Marcelo Bielsa makes his team let Aston Villa score after Leeds United scored extremely controversially! ????
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 28, 2019
Albert Adomah walked the ball into the net for the Villan’s equalizer. The game ended in a draw which confirmed Sheffield United’s promotion to the top flight after Norwich City had their promotion confirmed earlier in the week.
“I think common sense and sportsmanship prevailed in the end,” said Smith. “Klich apologised to me coming off the pitch; he said things like that should not happen. We’ll be appealing Anwar’s red card. I’ll be amazed if he’s suspended for the play-offs because there’s nothing to it, he doesn’t touch him.”
The Villa manager also indicated to the press that he had advised Bielsa to instruct his men to allow the equalizer. “I suggested I thought that would be the right thing to do and he agreed. But I’m not sure all his players did,” said Smith. “I can understand their frustration but full respect to Marcelo for that because it was the right decision.”
Bielsa is no stranger to controversy or confrontation, with the allegations of him sending spies to watch the other teams train in the recent past. However, the Argentinian was uncharacteristically circumspect in his post-match press conference.
“What happened, happened,” he said. “English football is known around the world for its noble features. I’ve said all I want to say.”
Villa’s run of form has seen them in contention for a spot in the playoffs. Smith played down the chances of the resurfacing of the emotions that were on display in this match in a potential playoff final between the sides.
“My players were angry at the time but at the end they were all shaking hands with everyone because sportsmanship prevailed,” Smith added. “It was one moment in a highly competitive industry.”
Leeds United are suffering from the physical and mental fatigue that very often plagues sides at the end of the Championship season. The playoffs can very often be a cruel testing ground for tired sides. The semi-final of the playoffs will most likely be against Derby whose manager, Frank Lampard accused Bielsa of sending spies to his training ground not so long ago. Further tensions could come into play.
However, while Leeds’ future is uncertain, we can be sure that this goal is going to appear on blooper reels for years to come.