Dean Smith tasted defeat at Villa Park for the first time, as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United dashed hopes of a top-two finish. After the hosts threw away a two-goal advantage, Kemar Roofe’s strike in the final stages won all the spoils for the top of the table Leeds.
With Axel Tuanzebe the latest Villain to be nursing an injury, James Bree partnered James Chester at the heart of a flimsy defensive line. Jack Grealish remained sidelined, whilst Jonathan Kodjia’s impact against Stoke earned him a recall over Anwar EL Ghazi.
Villa started well, with Tammy Abraham getting off the mark in under four minutes. The clubs leading scorer pounced inside the box to cleverly finish beyond Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Leeds goal. Abraham’s initial back heel to John McGinn started the move, but as the Scot was brought down in the box, the ball kindly fell to the feet of the Chelsea loanee, who made no mistake in firing the hosts into the lead.
After Leeds almost clawed their way back within minutes of conceding. Kodjia’s neat footwork and pass to Conor Hourihane presented Villa with the chance to double their lead. In a clinical opening 20 minutes the Irishman bent the ball around Peacock-Farrell from distance to add a second goal – stunning Bielsa’s men.
In an enthralling first 45, Leeds where unlucky to not have broken the Villa rearguard. Even if Pablo Hernandez’s free kick on the cusp of half-time looked destined to sail beyond Orjan Nyland. Brief jubilation from the away end was, as ever met with sarcastic jeers from every other corner of Villa Park.
Second half collapse
As Villa could have put the game to bed on the 50th minute, it took six more for Leeds to make Kodjia pay for his guilt edge miss at the other end. Ahmed Elmohamady didn’t learn from his costly mistake last week. He allowed substitute Jack Clarke to run inside onto his favoured right foot, before unleashing an accurate strike into the far corner. With Nyland standing little chance, Villa again paid the price of fielding fullback’s with little defensive awareness if truth be told.
Five minutes later and the scores were level. To Dean Smith’s annoyance, it was a set-piece that paved the way for a Leeds comeback. Pontus Jansson climbed highest in a crowded box. The Swede beat Chester to emphatically head home a Hernandez corner.
As Villa looked bereft off ideas going forward with Hogan running away from the ball since making his introduction. Elmohmaady once more was at fault for conceding the final nail in the coffin. Instead of using his goalkeeper, the Egyptian headed across his own box to tempt Roofe into executing a volley past Nyland’s far post.
14 points separate Villa from the automatic places, with neither Leeds or Norwich showing any signs of slowing down. Villa travels to Swansea before Preston to end a turbulent 2018.