Verdict: Leeds United let it slip but take deserved share with Aston Villa

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THANKS to Sky Sports opting to pull this fixture forward by 20 hours or so to broadcast it live to the nation, a group of Norway-based Leeds United supporters only arrived at half-time.

Even then it took a mad dash across the Pennines by taxi from Manchester Airport by those dozen fans, who had all booked their flights with the original scheduled 3pm kick-off today in mind.

Such devotion certainly deserved some form of reward. In the end, however, those hardy Scandinavians must have wondered if all the effort and expense had been worth it.

Having missed a first half in which their side had dominated and deservedly took the lead via Pontus Jansson’s first goal of the season, the late arrivals could only watch in frustration as Aston Villa took control.

Henri Lansbury cancelled out Jansson’s opener as United lost their way to such an extent that there was a palpable sense of relief among the locals in the 30,547 crowd come the full-time whistle that Thomas Christiansen’s men had emerged with a point.

Certainly, Steve Bruce’s side had looked the more likely to snatch a late winner during the closing stages.

Pontus Jansson is mobbed by Leeds United team-mates after giving them a deserved lead against Aston Villa (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Pontus Jansson is mobbed by Leeds United team-mates after giving them a deserved lead against Aston Villa (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

That, though, would have been harsh on Leeds after the manner in which they had torn into the visitors during those opening 45 minutes.

Caleb Ekuban epitomised this bold approach as much as anyone in white, the striker’s constant harrying and hassling of the Villa backline giving James Chester and Chris Samba all manner of problems.

Ronaldo Vieira was another to catch the eye during that one-sided first half for Leeds, his drive and desire meaning Villa were unable to gain even a toehold on midfield.

Bruce could have few complaints at his side falling behind on 19 minutes. Pablo Hernandez was the creator with a flighted corner, but Jansson was the man who made things happen with a dart in front of Samba that the Swede followed by powering a bullet header past Sam Johnstone.

Steve Bruce’s side had looked the more likely to snatch a late winner during the closing stages. That, though, would have been harsh on Leeds after the manner in which they had torn into the visitors during those opening 45 minutes.

The YP’s Richard Sutcliffe

United could have doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time and again it was a set-piece that had the visitors rocking.

Ezgjan Alioski was behind the pinpoint delivery this time, his free-kick picking out Liam Cooper unmarked, but the defender could only head over.

As the home players left the field at the interval to a deserved ovation from their supporters, the newly-arrived Norwegians must have been confident of witnessing more of the same.

Any such belief, however, proved misplaced with Villa, instead, taking a grasp of the game in a manner similar to how Leeds had dominated proceedings in the first half.

Liam Cooper, right, beats Leeds United team-mate Pontus Jansson to the ball  to head home past Aston Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone but the effort was ruled out (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

Liam Cooper, right, beats Leeds United team-mate Pontus Jansson to the ball to head home past Aston Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone but the effort was ruled out (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

The visitors did have one alarming moment when Cooper thought he had made amends for that earlier miss by nodding in a Kemar Roofe free-kick just after the hour only for the linesman’s raised flag to quickly cut short the celebrations.

But, otherwise, the second half belonged to the visiting side.

They had arrived in the West Riding on the back of a strong surge up the Championship table that had made a mockery of those Villa supporters who had called for Bruce’s head in the early weeks of the season.

Before the break, the best Villa could muster by way of a threat to Felix Wiedwald’s goal was Glenn Whelan’s shot that trickled well wide.

Strong words in the dressing room from Bruce, though, sparked a massive improvement as Villa belatedly found their attacking stride.

First, Albert Adomah brought a fine block from Wiedwald after Luke Ayling had failed to cut out the pass.

Then, as Leeds struggled to clear a free-kick, the ball fell invitingly for Jack Grealish, but his volley lacked power.

It was a let-off for the hosts, but one that went unheeded, as Villa equalised with 19 minutes remaining.

A lusty 50-50 challenge between Jansson and Neil Taylor that left both players in agony on the floor saw the ball break to Henri Lansbury.

The substitute may only have been on the field for six minutes, but he made no mistake with a low, drilled shot that bounced in off a post with Wiedwald well beaten.

Both sides pushed for a winner, but, in reality, it was Villa who were in the ascendancy and looked the more likely to prevail.

That they did not will, at least, have been a consolation for those Norwegian fans who now have the best part of two days to fill before flying home on Sunday.

Leeds United: Wiedwald; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi; Phillips, Vieira; Alioski (Grot 90), Saiz, Hernandez (Roofe 42); Ekuban (Sacko 83). Unused substitutes: Lonergan, Shaugnessy, Pennington, Anita.

Aston Villa: Johnstone; Hutton, Chester, Samba, Taylor; Snodgrass, Whelan, Hourihane (Lansbury 64), Adomah (Elmohamady 89); Onomah (Grealish 64), Davis. Unused substitutes: Steer, De Laet, Elphick, Bjarnason.

Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).