Pantomime villain Patrick Bamford came back to haunt Aston Villa with a sublime hat-trick, crushing their hopes of going five games unbeaten.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa returned to the iconic Villa Park pitch for the first time since their 7-2 drubbing of Liverpool, hoping for a similar result against newly promoted media darlings Leeds United.
Leeds were certainly the side in control in the opening five minutes, making the home side look uncomfortable in their defending. Patrick Bamford came the closest with a diving header that swept just wide of the post.
Leeds’ Struijk was booked in the 10th minute for a rash challenge on a rapidly advancing Jack Grealish.
The visitors had another opportunity in the 12th minute, with Rodrigo thinking he had put Leeds ahead, but Ezri Konsa produced a fine block to put the ball wide for a corner.
Pascal Struijk was subbed off by Marcelo Bielsa, and was replaced by Jamie Shackleton in the 20th minute – with the Leeds manager wary of losing a man away from home.
Jack Grealish thought he’d put Aston Villa ahead in the 26th minute as Ollie Watkins capitalised on an Ayling mistake before playing the ball across the goal mouth. Grealish fired towards the goal, but Ayling was well positioned to clear the captain’s shot off the line.
Both sides were enjoying spells of possession and the ability to attack, but neither were really challenging their opposition keeper.
In the 42nd minute Jack Grealish had a shout for a penalty after Helder Costa felled him in the box, but both the referee and then VAR waved the claims away.
Both sides returned to the field of play for the second half with no changes.
Leeds, much like the first half, started the half as the better side and had a number of attempts on goal in the opening five minutes, but nothing that was too challenging for Martinez or his defence.
Jack Grealish very nearly produced an exceptional solo goal that saw him run from the edge of his own box, until he found himself in Leeds’ box. He was forced out to the right hand side, before Meslier saved well at this near post.
Ezri Konsa nearly picked up a Birthday goal in the 53rd minute, beating his man to Barkley’s corner and forcing Meslier into an exceptional save to tip it over the bar.
Leeds took the lead in the 54th minute with an exceptional counter-attack that saw Rodrigo force Martinez into a palmed save which fell into the path of Patrick Bamford, who lashed the ball into the bottom right corner past the attempted block of Tyrone Mings.
VAR was involved in a check for a penalty against Tyrone Mings in the 65th minute as he was unfortunately placed in an altercation with Patrick Bamford, but the Video Assistant Referee concluded it was neither a foul or a penalty. Shortly after, Bertrand Traore replaced Trezeguet.
In the following minutes, Patrick Bamford would score again, producing a strong shot from outside of the box that left Martinez rooted to his spot.
Jack Grealish was booked for dissent in the 69th minute.
In the 74th minute, Patrick Bamford picked up his first hat-trick in two years as the ball fell to him on his right foot in a central position, before he shuffled past Konsa and Targett, before opening his body and switching onto his left foot to curl past Martinez.
With the game pretty much put to bed, Leeds made a double switch over a four minute period, seeing Raphinha and Pablo Hernandez replace Rodrigo and Helder Costa.
Ollie Watkins came close to scoring a late consolation goal in the 90th minute, but his shot whipped just past the post.
A game that will not define our season by any means, but it shows a return to some form of realism is needed.