Leeds United 0 Aston Villa 0: Whites' satisfaction only increased by Stuart Attwell's hapless performance

Sometimes when you see a name on the team-sheet for a football match, your heart just sinks.

Stuart Attwell was theoretically in charge of Leeds United versus Aston Villa, although in reality it slipped out of his hands early in the first half.

Attwell was demoted from the Select Group of officials four years after his record-breaking debut but restored in 2016. Whether the fact he is still considered one of the country's best says more about the judgement of those who employ him or the paucity of English referees is open to debate.Regardless, his toss-a-coin approach to refereeing stopped Leeds' first match for a month being a good one, and turned every tackle into a full-scale drama.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the end, though, it probably only added to the us-against-the-world satisfaction Leeds took from preserving their unbeaten start to the season at Elland Road with a 0-0 draw.

LIVELY DISPLAY: Rodrigo returned to the Leeds United line-up after a shoulder injuryLIVELY DISPLAY: Rodrigo returned to the Leeds United line-up after a shoulder injury
LIVELY DISPLAY: Rodrigo returned to the Leeds United line-up after a shoulder injury

They even had a chance to win it in the fourth added minute, only for John McGinn to throw his body in front of a Mateusz Klich shot.

It is probably just as well Jesse Marsch started the game in the stands because Leeds' combustible coach certainly would have finished it there after an infuriating performance by the official.

The Whites might have lost a normal game anyway but now they will be deprived of the exciting Luis Sinisterra through suspension at Crystal Palace.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The first booking, for clipping the heels of Tyrone Mings was harsh in the context of a game where Attwell let all manner of things go, but not wrong. So it was pretty brainless of him to stop Villa taking a quick free-kick at the start of the second half.

Perhaps he thought he would get away with it as Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Martinez had both been spoken to but not booked for time-wasting inside the first 20 minutes, or because Leon Bailey had kicked the ball away without one. Maybe no one had briefed the Premier League new boy on this lottery of a referee.

Marsch, sat in the press box, suspended for raging against the referee and VAR in Brentford, put his head in his hand.

When Bailey was booked, for fouling Jack Harrison in the 65th minute, there followed a sarcastic standing ovation that made you proud to be British.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Attwell's response to Sinisterra's indiscretion was nothing to be proud of.

Summing up his day, he immediately flashed his card and then realised he had already shown one. Panicking, he went over to fourth official Tony Harrington looking for some sort of get-out-jail-free card but there was none available. Likewise, he pressed his earpiece in hoping for video assistant referee Mark Scholes to provide an escape route. Sorry kid, you're on your own with this one.

It was infuriating because the winger had returned from an international break which saw him score three goals in two Colombia games brimming with confidence. The bitty nature of the game Attwell encouraged stopped him from showing the full range of his skills.

Liam Cooper looked assured on his first start of the season, and will not have been worried by the scrappy nature of the contest given that the centre-back's job is essentially that of destroyer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rodrigo, looking to have lost none of his liveliness after a shoulder injury and a month without his team playing first-team football, nearly slid onto a Sinisterra cross after good skill by the winger to open the space for it but Leeds were unable to put a shot on target until the 78th minute when substitute Patrick Bamford burst through and Brenden Aaronson followed up the save but under an Ezri Konsa challenge, could not beat the goalkeeper either.

And of course as soon as they were down to 10 men, it was Leeds time-wasting.

Even at 11-v-11, Villa carried more threat.

Ollie Watkins stabbed a Bailey cross wide, and Cooper came to Ilan Meslier's aid when he messed up coming for another centre. The goalkeeper saved but did not hold a Watkins shot, then denied the sliding Philippe Coutinho. A McGinn shot deflected wide and Meslier smothered another Watkins effort.

Once Sinisterra went off it became less of a match, more an exercise in defence versus attack. Defence won.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Phillipe Coutinho volleyed against the post in the immediate aftermath of the red card, and Ollie Watkins missed from the rebound. Between the 72nd and 76th minutes, Emiliano Buendia, Konsa and Coutinho all shot narrowly wide, then Watkins cut inside and fired at Meslier.

McGinn had a shot heroically closed down by Luke Ayling, the man in the mask, and Meslier came off his line to deny Watkins in the 89th minute.

Klich’s chance, from another Bamford breakaway, could have even given the Leeds story a happy ending, but the over-riding emotion at full-time was a mixture of anger and relief.Leeds United: Meslier; Kristensen (Ayling 68), Koch, Cooper, Struijk; Adams, Roca (Firpo 58); Sinisterra, Aaronson (Klich 78), Harrison (Summerville 79); Rodrigo (Bamford 68). Unused substitutes: Klaesson, Llorente, Gnonto, Greenwood.Aston Villa: Martinez; Young, Konsa, Mings, Augustinsson (Bednarek 45); J Ramsey (Ings 83), Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Bailey (Buendia 65), Watkins, Coutinho. Unused substitutes: Sanson, Nakamba, Olsen, Dendoncker, Archer, Bogarde.Referee: S Attwell (Nuneaton).