Aston Villa – Leeds produced an entertaining, back-and-forth affair to kick off matchweek 6 of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Friday.
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Villa’s 100-percent record is no more, thanks to a Patrick Bamford hat trick — three goals scored in a 19-minute span in the second half — to make up for a thoroughly forgettable first-half performance from the Leeds United striker in a 3-0 win at Villa Park.
2 things we learned: Aston Villa – Leeds
1. Villa’s defensive record due a bit of regression: Through four games, Villa had conceded just two goals — each coming in their 7-2 destruction of defending champions Liverpool. Outside of that day, three clean sheets meant Dean Smith’s side has conceded four fewer goals than any other side in the PL. However, on the expected goals (xG) metric, Villa entered Friday as more of mid-table side in terms of xG against (xGA), ranking ahead of sides like Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton, but behind the likes Brighton & Hove Albion (best in the PL), Southampton and Burnley. Point being: they’ve been on the fortunate side of some of the scoring chances opponents have had against them, and eventually things will even out due to regression. The chances that Leeds created — even when they failed to put them away early — were yet another indicator that Aston Villa aren’t quite the juggernaut that their 100-percent start said they were.
2. Leeds tough to beat over 90 minutes: By the end of the season, Leeds will have won an extra 8-10 points by finishing games as strongly and aggressively as they began. Marcelo Bielsa’s side is unrelenting and always looking to create pressure situations for their opponents. That’s true of most sides, but the vast majority can’t maintain that level for 90 minutes, but that is very clearly an identifying quality of this Leeds team. For 55 minutes, Villa held their own and did just enough to remain level with a chance of taking something from this game, only for Leeds to ramp up the intensity even more as the game wore on.
Bamford had, and missed, the game’s first golden scoring chance after four minutes. Ezgjan Alioski delivered an inch-perfect cross into the box, finding Bamford without a defender in sight, but Bamford couldn’t head the ball on target and put it just wide.
Luke Ayling made a desperate goal-line clearance in the 27th minute, as he booted the ball clear with barely half the ball to spare. Jack Grealish picked out the far post and beat Illan Meslier with his left-footed strike, but Ayling was lurking as the last line of defense to save the day.
Leeds cut though Villa with devastating counter-attack build-up in the 44th minute, but Bamford wasted another dangerous cross in the end. Leeds started the move, back inside their own half, finding Harrison down the left flank and acres of space to run into. Jack Harrison beat his man into the final third and played the perfect ball to Bamford near the penalty spot, but he put his shot agonizingly wide of the post.
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Grealish was denied a career-defining goal not long into the second half, as the Villa-born and -bred star beat not one, not two, not three, but four defenders, into the six-yard box, only to be denied by Meslier upon finally pulling the trigger. Grealish received the ball inside his own half, down the left flank, dribbled past one defender into the penalty area and cut a hard right near the top of the box, evaded three more defenders and picked his opening to shoot from perhaps too tight of an angle.
Seconds later, Bamford began making amends and put Leeds 1-0 ahead. Harrison played Rodrigo Moreno into the box, where he fired a slightly deflected shot on target. It was the deflection which wrong-footed Emiliano Martinez and Ezri Konsa as they scrambled into action, giving Bamford the half-step advantage he needed to reach the ball first and slam it home.
11 minuets later, Bamford made it 2-0 with a stunning strike into the upper corner. Bamford had options to his left and to his right, but elected to go for goal amid a crowd of bodies. The result was Martinez helplessly looking for answers, and Villa quickly crashing back down to Earth.
Bamford needed just seven more minutes to complete his hat trick, and he did so in spectacular fashion. With three defenders smothering him on all sides, Bamford wiggled free to create a half-yard of space and position his body for another left-footed finish from a tough angle. In terms of using — and creating — space, Bamford’s movement was a masterclass.