By George Overhill

13th Jan, 2023 | 10:02pm

Leeds United were cruelly beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa in a game where Jesse Marsch’s side outshone the home side for most of the match.

The Whites went behind after just two minutes when Leon Bailey cut inside Pascal Struijk to curl one past Illan Meslier on the counter from a Leeds corner, and it took Emi Martinez and the offside flag to prevent a deserved equaliser as the visitors piled on the pressure before the half.

Somehow Villa doubled their lead against the run of play through Emi Buendia midway through the second half, as the flag was negated by a VAR review, before the excellent Willy Gnonto put one on a plate for the returning Patrick Bamford late on.

Here, MOT Leeds News rates the Leeds United players out of 10 for their performances at Villa Park.

Illan Meslier – 5

One of his worse performances. Couldn’t do much with Bailey’s opener and wasn’t required to work anywhere near as hard as his opposite number. Perhaps could have done better with the second by parrying the original shot away from danger. Risked a late red card when he caught Philippe Coutinho in the face when well outside his area.

Luke Ayling – 6

The pick of the back four. Produced a superb volleyed cross that looked to have put an equaliser on a plate for Jack Harrison if it wasn’t for a Martinez save. Feels like a long way back for Rasmus Kristensen to get back into the starting XI.

Robin Koch (off for Firpo ’88) – 3

Struggled badly. Had just about all he could handle with Ollie Watkins in the first half, and was then booked as soon as the striker went off injured. Perhaps overmanned at times but too easy to get in behind him far too often. So sloppy on the ball at times as well.

Liam Cooper – 6

Again looked uncertain at the back alongside Koch when put under pressure. Integrating Max Wober into the line up can’t come soon enough. Did at least assert himself on the pitch to provide some semblance of control at the back and made a couple of important interventions late on.

Pascal Struijk (off for Wober ’66) – 5

Made the crucial error of letting Bailey inside onto his left for the opener and looked more like a centre-back playing out of position than he has for a while. Struggled against the Jamaican winger and was mercifully withdrawn.

Marc Roca – 6

He should have scored from the early corner before Villa broke for the opener but bafflingly missed the ball. Wasn’t bad otherwise and showed a level of bite in the centre of the park that arguably outshone his star midfield partner on this occasion, but that was his most telling contribution.

Tyler Adams – 6

Calm on the ball in the midfield and looked to have things largely under control for a large period in the middle of the game. Denied a goal at the end of a nice move immediately before Villa’s second.

Brenden Aaronson (off for Greenwood ’77) – 7

Pressed well and really grew into the game in an attacking sense prior to the break. Had chances to score and combined strongly with his attacking teammates. Faded from prominence in the second half and lacked end product at times. Decent if frustrating performance overall that promised more.

Jack Harrison (off for Bamford ’66) – 6

Looked much more confident like the player that started the season in the first half, then lost his way again after the break. His first corner should have been converted by Roca and put debutant Alex Moreno under pressure down the right. Had hit the outside of the post, and slid a lovely through-ball for Rodrigo. Had to find the net from Ayling’s wonderful centre but was denied by a point-blank Martinez save.

Willy Gnonto – 9Man of the Match

By far the best Leeds United player on the pitch. Characteristically lively on the ball while being generally booted and thrown round Villa Park, which neither he nor his manager were impressed with Michael Oliver for allowing. Irrepressible on the ball and at the heart of everything. Made Bamford’s goal with excellent work. A starring role.

Rodrigo – 7

Difficult to believe he didn’t find the net. Pressed hard from the off and had a decent shout for a penalty. Had a huge chance cleared off the line just before the break having taken the ball round Martinez, then somehow smashed the ball in while on his knees in the area only to have it ruled out for a narrow offside. Went quiet later on.


Max Wober (on for Struijk ’66) – 6

Introduced some control on the left-hand side that wasn’t present when Struijk was there.

Patrick Bamford (on for Harrison ’66) – 7

Finally scored his first of the season after wonderful work from Gnonto. If he could just stay fit and produce the finishing touches like that more often. Hopes that it can be a sign of things to come.

Joe Gelhardt (on for Greenwood ’77) – N/A

Sam Greenwood (on for Aaronson ’77) – N/A

Junior Firpo (on for Koch ’88) – N/A

In other Leeds United news, the incoming £35million man has been tipped to link “perfectly” with a current Whites star.