Aston Villa and Leeds United draw, Coutinho shines

 

Leeds United battled back to earn a 3-3 draw at Aston Villa after a virtuoso first-half display by Philippe Coutinho had left Marcelo Bielsa’s team crestfallen on Wednesday.

Brazilian Coutinho cancelled out an early opener by Daniel James with a classy finish and then produced two majestic passes for Jacob Ramsey to score twice in five minutes.

James bravely nodded Leeds back into the contest in stoppage time at the end of a breathless opening period.

Leeds, who have fallen too close to the relegation zone for comfort, got their reward for a tenacious display in the 63rd minute when a corner fell at the feet of Diego Llorente and he fired home from close range.

The draw left Leeds in 15th place with 23 points, six points above third-from-bottom Norwich City, while Villa are in 11th place with 27 points.

A scintillating first half was described by Villa manager Steven Gerrard as “chaos” and he was not wrong, although no one was complaining about the rich entertainment on offer.

“It was frantic, end-to-end and 100 mph. We almost brought into the Leeds style and we needed more calm heads out there so it looked more like our style,” Gerrard said.

“A draw was the right result. A fun game for the fans tonight but not one for the coaches!”

Former Manchester United winger James got the ball rolling with a low finish in the ninth minute and he came agonisingly close to making it 2-0 with a thumping effort against the crossbar.

Villa made the most of that slice of good fortune and equalised almost immediately when Matty Cash cut a ball back from the byline and Coutinho took a touch before firing a shot on the turn beyond Illan Meslier.

Barcelona loanee Coutinho, who marked his Villa debut with an equaliser at Manchester United last month, then took over.

An exquisite pass sent in Ramsey to beat Meslier in the 38th minute and he produced a carbon copy five minutes later to split the Leeds defence again, this time Ramsey lashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Leeds looked shell shocked but James somehow got his head to a deflected Rodrigo cross to nod over the line and at least send the visitors back to the changing room with hope.

By comparison, the second half was uneventful although still highly entertaining.

Llorente fired in following a poor clearance by Tyrone Mings from a corner and in a frenetic finale tempers began to fray with Villa’s Ezri Konsa sent off after catching Meslier with his forearm as a corner was played in.

While there were several candidates for man-of-the-match, Coutinho’s display in the first half had Gerrard purring.

“It was vintage Philippe Coutinho tonight. He’s certainly getting back close to where he was when the whole world was speaking about him,” Gerrard said.

“He will get better and better. He is a joy to work with.”

A night to forget for the Spurs

Southampton scored two late goals to grab a tense 3-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.

Mohamed Elyounoussi and Che Adams stunned the Spurs defence in the final 11 minutes, turning the game around after Son Heung-Min looked to have grabbed the winner for the hosts on 70 minutes.

Southampton were the better team in the first half and trailed through a 19th-minute own goal from Jan Bednarek which had put Antonio Conte’s side ahead against the run of play. Armando Broja equalised just four minutes later before Son put the hosts back in front.

However, late goals from Elyounoussi and Adams turned the game on its head to give Southampton all three points.

Substitute Steven Bergwijn thought he had rescued a point for Tottenham in stoppage time but his effort was ruled out for offside after a VAR check.

The results means Spurs remain in seventh place in the Premier League, four points behind West Ham in fourth with three games in hand, while Southampton move up into 10th.

It was a stressful night for Tottenham manager Conte, who watched his team get outplayed at times and defend appallingly. He also got embroiled in a fierce slanging match with Southampton players and technical staff after Son’s goal.

“In the first half we made many mistakes and many times the pass was not good and we risked complicating our life today,” Conte said.

“The players gave everything tonight and that is why it was a pity to lose the game.”

The night had begun well for Tottenham when Lucas Moura played a clever pass to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and his low cross, aimed at Son, was intercepted by Saints defender Bednarek who could only turn the ball into his own goal.

Southampton immediately changed gear and begun to carve open a Tottenham side with some fluent football.

The hosts then took the lead in the 70th minute when Harry Kane played in Moura who whipped in a low delivery for Son to meet with a brilliantly-controlled shot.

Southampton felt there had been a foul on Broja by Emerson Royal in the build-up and while he was down having treatment, Conte lost his temper, gesticulating at Southampton players.

When order was restored it was Southampton who had the clearer heads and thanks to a couple of majestic James Ward-Prowse crosses and some non-existent Tottenham marking they returned home with a deserved three points.

“The mentality and character of the team is outrageous, it is fantastic to watch,” Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said.

“They are fighting for everything. We played fantastic football and played 23 passes before the second goal. Fantastic.”

Dominant City

Manchester City made short work of Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday night with a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

Goals either side of half-time by Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne set Man City on course for a straightforward victory that saw Pep Guardiola’s side extend their lead to 12 points over Liverpool, who have two matches in hand including Thursday’s home game against Leicester City.

Man City took the lead from the penalty spot just before the breakthrough Mahrez after Mads Roerslev fouled Raheem Sterling in the area. The Algeria international has now scored in seven straight games for his club.

De Bruyne doubled the hosts’ lead in the 69th minute after a rebound from a Sterling shot fell to him and he slotted home past Brentford keeper David Raya from a tight angle.

The rest of the match was a stroll for City, who easily could have added to the lead, as they stretched their unbeaten run to 14 league games and pulled further clear of second-placed Liverpool.

Brentford’s struggles continued after a fifth successive league defeat pulled them closer to the relegation zone. They sit 14th, six points above Norwich City in 18th, having played one game more.

“That was a tough game,” City coach Pep Guardiola said.

“They defend in high press, then deep and compact. There was no space between midfield and attack. We had to be patient and not make any mistakes.”

“It was an important victory in a tough game that we expected. We are in a good position. I don’t know if we are the best, but we are happy to be on 60 points.”

Since losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace in October, City had won their last six Premier League home games by an aggregate score of 20-4 ahead of Brentford’s visit – just the opponent Thomas Frank’s out-of-form side did not want to be facing.

But other than a Joao Cancelo effort that was scooped over the top and Aymeric Laporte’s side-foot wide, Brentford looked comfortable in their quest to blunt the relentless league leaders for most of the first half.

City did not need to hit top gear in the second half, such was their control. They scored a second without much effort, as Raya passed the ball straight to Sterling, whose shot was blocked into the path of De Bruyne, with the Belgian slotting his seventh league goal of the season into the empty net.

Spanish midfielder Rodri almost made it three late on, but Raya kept his scuffed strikeout, with City goalkeeper Ederson seeing out the 100th clean sheet in the Premier League under Guardiola with ease down the other end.

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Courtesy: Reuters and ESPN FC

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