There were absurd scenes at Elland Road in Yorkshire where Leeds United’s manager Marcelo Bielsa instructed his players to allow Aston Villa to go on and score an uncontested goal. The decision came just moments after Leeds scored a controversial goal of their own to take the lead. The eventual 1-1 draw helped Sheffield United seal promotion to the Premier League.
Leeds opened the scoring in a crucial match in the League Championship game while Villa had Jonathan Kodjia down injured near the halfway line. As Leeds progressed in their attack, it seemed for a moment that they were slowing down and going to kick the ball out of play to allow treatment. But Mateusz Klich received the ball and curled in the goal towards the far right corner. It sparked a series of on-field melees, during which Villa had Anwar El Ghazi sent off for violent conduct.
Stuart Attwell, the referee in charge, had the difficult task of making a decision following the melee. Replays suggested the sending off was incorrect as Ghazi’s elbow made no contact with Patrick Bamford. The Leeds striker appeared to have indulged in some amateur dramatics – going down clutching his face over nothing.
— Matt Lynch (@mattlyynch) 28 April 2019
The red card was rescinded on Tuesday while Bamford has been charged with deceiving the referee, the English Football Association (FA) said. “Anwar El Ghazi will be available for Aston Villa’s next three matches after a claim of wrongful dismissal was upheld by an Independent Regulatory Commission,” the FA said in a statement. “Patrick Bamford has subsequently been charged with ‘successful deception of a match official’. It is alleged the Leeds United player’s behaviour in the 72nd minute of the fixture, which involved committing a clear act of simulation that led to Anwar El Ghazi being dismissed, amounts to improper conduct.”
Bamford faces a two-match ban which would rule him out of Leeds’ final game of the regular season against Ipswich Town and the first leg of their play-off semi-final. He has until Wednesday to respond to the charge.
A controversial manager Bielsa then told his players to let Villa equalise, leading to the bizarre sight of Albert Adomah running from halfway through the Leeds team and scoring into an empty net. Only defender Pontus Jansson tried to stop Adomah, attempting a wild swipe at the ball but missing.
Argentine Bielsa then argued with Villa assistant manager John Terry, the former Chelsea captain, on the touchline.
“What happened, happened. And we behaved as we behaved,” Bielsa said. “That’s all I can say about something which is very clear.”
When asked if he had instructed his players to allow Villa’s equaliser in the interests of fair play, Bielsa said: “I don’t understand the difference. I don’t see any difference … You make a difference between fair play and the circumstances of the game, but for me it’s the same.”
“English football is known around the world for its noble features of how we play.”
Terry revealed that he advised Bielsa to allow his side to equalise. “I suggested I thought that would be the right thing to do and he agreed. But I’m not sure all his players did,” said Smith. “I can understand their frustration but full respect to Marcelo for that because it was the right decision.”
Wenger hails Bielsa’s sportsmanship
“It is a remarkable gesture. They are playing to come up to the Premier League and there is something at stake… the whole world has to watch that,” said Arsene Wenger, who left Arsenal in May last year after 22 years in charge, told beIN Sports.
“Only the referee can stop the game. Villa should not have stopped to play. Leeds took advantage of it and that is where they were guilty,” the Frenchman added.
“It is a kind of fair play that is usually on the football pitch. Only the ref can stop the game but it is remarkable from Bielsa.”
With Norwich City and Sheffield United bagging automatic qualification, the final spot will be decided in the playoffs featuring Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and fourth team yet to be decided between Derby County, Middlesbrough and Bristol City.