Aston Villa headed up to Yorkshire to take on a struggling Leeds at Elland Road. Leeds would have their new manager Jesse Marsch in charge following the recent sacking of Marcelo Bielsa.
Steven Gerrard made just one change from the team that beat Southampton last weekend, as Lucas Digne replaced Ashley Young. Gerrard stated that it didn’t reflect Young’s performance but more a tactical change as Digne gives Villa more natural width on the left. Ezri Konsa returned to the matchday squad on the bench as Calum Chambers kept his place alongside Tyrone Mings.
The game started scrappy with both sides looking uncomfortable at the back but neither side created anything of note.
Leeds fans tried to rally their side and set their sights on Mings – for some reason?
The game was screaming out for a bit of something, anything and it wasn’t long before Villa stepped up.
Danny Ings’ flick released Digne into space, who crossed the ball but it was too far ahead of Ollie Watkins. Matty Cash retrieved the loose ball and crossed for Phillipe Coutinho, whose shot to a reflection off Pascal Struijk and past Illan Meslier into the back of the net.
The game turned on its head and Meslier became the busier of the two goalkeepers. Douglas Luiz should have done better with a cross from Cash and tried to catch the Leeds keeper off guard from a free-kick but it remained 0-1 at the half-time whistle.
Leeds looked much better after the break. Raphinha was able to get behind Digne and send in a low cross which Cash was able to clear from in front of Joe Gelhardt.
The introduction of Patrick Bamford just before the hour mark, after three months out, got the Leeds fans on their feet but Villa was able to withhold Leeds’ small period of pressure and turned the game back on its head.
McGinn’s effort was denied by Meslier after some link-up work between Coutinho and Ings. It wasn’t long before Villa doubled their lead. Ings, once again involved, played a superb crossfield pass and found Cash in acres of space, he stepped inside the challenge of Firpo and smashed his shot under Meslier to make it 0-2.
Leeds looked a beaten side at this point and there for the taking. Coutinho once again come close but failed to beat Meslier with a backheel finish and then Chambers piled on the misery when he curled a beauty from the edge of the box following a layoff by Mings.
It was only three games ago, Villa looked like they could have been dragged into a relegation battle but all of a sudden, following three games unbeaten, with three clean sheets, the question is, how far can they go?
- For the second game running, I am struggling for negatives. A slow start maybe? Leeds fans getting on Mings’ back, who had the last laugh, was an interesting one but can’t I really criticise an opposition side for trying to help their team by putting pressure on one of our players?
- There were so many positives from this victory and I will only name a few but the most impressive thing for me was how we handled the pressure from Leeds after the break. In previous times we would have sunk under that pressure and atmosphere but we were able to stay strong, composed and come out of it the other side.
- Calum Chambers has really impressed me since he arrived from Arsenal. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, all of a sudden we have some healthy competition in the centre-half positions and despite how impressive Konsa has been over the past few years, it sends out a good message in my opinion. If you get a chance and take it, the position is yours to lose. Let’s see what Konsa is made of.
- Clean Sheet – Yet another clean sheet. Three in a row. All of a sudden from a clueless team we look structured and everyone knows what he’s doing.
West Ham v Aston Villa
Saturday, 12th March – 14.00 (GMT)
The London Stadium, London