They may have not achieved their aim of automatic promotion, but Leeds United made their own bit of history in their 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in the final home game of the regular season.
Under orders from head coach Marcelo Bielsa Leeds allowed their opponents to score a goal in reply to a controversial effort allowed to stand for Mateusz Klich.
Pontus Jansson did not agree with the decision and single handedly tried to stop Villa, but the unprecedented gesture from Bielsa ensured fair play in his eyes and denied the Whites victory.
After the match Bielsa explained his reasoning when he said: “ The facts are those everyone could see. We have all the elements we need. What happened, happened. That’s all I can say about what is very clear.
What happened, happened and we answered the way we answered. You only have one way of analysing what happened. That’s why I don’t understand the difference. You are making a difference between fair play and circumstances in the game. It’s the same for me. There was one circumstance from the game which deserved an answer from the two teams. “
When it was pointed out that few coaches would have made the same gesture Bielsa answered: “English football is known around the world for the noble features for how we play the competition.”
Results elsewhere may have made United’s game against Villa fairly irrelevant in the big scheme of things, but it will clearly end up as a memorable match for the strangest of reasons.
It was a familiar story of Leeds domination, but inability to put the ball in the net until the incredible 73rd minute.
It all started with Jonathan Kodjia going down injured in the . Several Villa players and home players stopped expecting the ball to be kicked out, but referee Stuart Attwell did not stop play. Klich was put in the clear down the left by Tyler Roberts and cut inside to bend a shot into the far corner of the net.
Cue pandemonium. With United celebrating the goal Villa players objected and pushing and shoving followed with Patrick Bamford appearing to be struck in the face.
Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi was sent-off, but instructions were sent out onto the pitch to allow Villa to score straight from the restart, which they duly did through Albert Adomah.
The visitors had to play the last 12 minutes plus seven minutes of added time with a man down, but survived by the skin of their teeth to get away with a draw.
The point at least means that Leeds stopped the rot and if they can gain at least a point at bottom of the table Ipswich next Sunday they will finish third.
The first half was lively enough, but ended goalless with the main talking point an inconsistent display by referee Attwell that led to Leeds head coach Bielsa being booked for comments he made to the fourth official about one of the decisions made by Attwell.
Leeds started with a bit of a hangover from their Easter defeats as Villa had early chances only for Andre Green to head over and Jonathan Kodjia to put a header just wide.
But the Whites gradually settled to play some decent football without quite the end product desired - the story of their season in many ways.
Jack Harrison had the best chance when free at the far post only to hit a weak shot.
Mateusz Klich was not far over with a 25-yard shot before Patrick Bamford’s flick header was saved, but was going wide.
Adam Forshaw was next to be off target with a shot from the edge of the box after a good move while Pablo Hernandez dragged a shot wide form the edge of the box after being found in space.
Villa threatened with another header as John McGinn’s effort was well saved low down by Kiko Casilla.
Tyrone Mings could only send a weak header wide from a free-kick played into the box.
After a little lull the game livened up again after Bielsa received his booking and Leeds ended the half on the attack with Stuart Dallas inches wide with a well struck low shot and Bamford well wide with a strike from 20 yards out.
Into the second half, the pattern remained the same with the Whites doing all the pressing and Villa only having the occasional break.
Forshaw was found in space on the edge of the box by a clever Klich pass only to shoot inches wide.
Jack Grealish hit a 25-yard free-kick well over at the other end before Villa had their best chance when Kodjia was found free in the area only to shoot over.
That was the last real opportunity the visitors had as they were forced back to defend their box.
Try as they might Leeds could not score, however, with Roberts seeing a shot cleared by a defender and Hernandez sending a shot inches over.
With Villa down to 10 men the home side predictably did all the pressing again and once more were left frustrated as Klich’s volley went straight to keeper Jed Steer, Roberts’ cross-shot drifted just wide and Luke Ayling headed over.
Into added time Roberts was unlucky again as his shot was cleared by Mings with the keeper beaten.
One last chance followed as Hernandez turned well in the area only to see his shot well saved by Steer.
Leeds United 1
Aston Villa 1
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Leeds: Casilla, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Dallas (Berardi 45), Phillips, Hernandez, Forshaw, Klich, Harrison (Roberts 45), Bamford.
Aston Villa: Steer, Almohamady, Tuanzebe, Mings, Taylor, Hourihane, McGinn, Green (Adomah 68), Grealish (Whelan 90), El Ghazi (sent-off 75), Kodjia (Jedinak 78).
Referee: Stuart Attwell