Jacob Ramsey shines as Villa and Leeds share spoils after six-goal thriller
By Peter Lansley at Villa Park,2022-02-09
Rather like Aston Villa, swashbuckling their way into a 3-1 lead before dipping away to allow Leeds to battle back for a draw, Steven Gerrard built up Jacob Ramsey’s candidature for an England call-up before asking us all to stay calm and let him develop.
Ramsey’s two goals, made by Philippe Coutinho who scored Villa’s first, capped a superb performance from the Birmingham-born midfielder who turns 21 in May and Gerrard was more glowing in his praise of his creative talents than he was critical of a defence that Leeds exposed too readily.
Daniel James scored twice in a frantic five-goal first half before Diego Llorente’s equaliser earned Leeds a deserved point. But it was Ramsey’s performance that had the Villa manager purring.
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The former England captain said: “I don’t want to make any headlines; I want Jacob to keep making his own headlines with his football. He’s getting better and stronger every game. The way he took his goals was wonderful.
“He’s the type of midfielder we want who can run without the ball, with the ball. I’m sure people are going to be watching and it’s only a matter of time. I know the level for England, I’ve been around it long enough and I know what’s needed but let’s all be sensible and keep calm.”
Whatever these two teams spent their mid-season winter break doing, it is to the neutral’s delight that defending cannot have featured too highly.
Ezri Konsa, the Villa defender, was sent off three minutes from time, for a second booking after he raised an arm to stop Illan Meslier from launching a counterattack, as this crazy game continued to make very little sense.
Coutinho seems to be making Villa’s £33 million option to buy in the summer look a good idea. Not only was he involved in all three goals but the manner in which he can nutmeg a player, or nonchalantly start a game with a backheel to win a corner, gets Villa’s near-42,000 crowd on their feet and sets the opposition on their heels.
Such a waif-like talent needs a physical platform around it, however, and Gerrard is clearly still searching for the right blend, after a promising first 11 league games have yielded 17 points. It is not difficult to see why the manager wanted to buy Yves Bissouma from Brighton in last month’s transfer window.
“He’s still got improvements to do from a physical point of view but in terms of his technical ability you don’t play for Brazil that many times or become a global superstar without that talent,” Gerrard said. “He will get better and better. He is a joy to work with.”
Villa had initially looked refreshed from their 18-day break but they went behind from a mistake that smacked more of rustiness. Tyrone Mings seemed to have taken the ball off Rodrigo only to give it him back and when it ran square, James drilled his shot, first time, into the far bottom corner.
The nippy Wales winger does not appear to be a natural fit for the central striker’s role but, in Patrick Bamford’s continued absence and with the assistance of Mateusz Klich and Rodrigo attacking from midfield, his pace and willingness have offered Leeds an outlet.
James also smashed a right-footshot against the crossbar before Villa promptly went up the other end to equalise. Matt Cash pulled his cross back from the right wing for Coutinho to pivot and screw home his second goal in his two home games for Villa.
Then he shaped to receive John McGinn’s pass into the centre circle, indicated he was about to turn right before spinning the other way, losing his man and sliding in a perfect pass for Ramsey to run in on goal, get his body in front of Klich, and calmly stroke home.
Within five minutes the same pair worked their combination once more, capitalising on Leeds’ predilection for marking the man rather than the space. Ollie Watkins’ off-the-ball run took two defenders to the left as Coutinho weaved forwards, allowing Ramsey the space to arrive late on the right and wallop home a fulminating right-foot shot into the near top corner.
Just when it appeared Villa were in control, however, James headed home Rodrigo’s deflected cross at the far post two minutes into first-half stoppage time.
Mings cleared off or near his own line three times in under two minutes as suddenly Villa were under the cosh again. Rodrigo, receiving Stuart Dallas’s short corner, crossed from the left and the England defender could only clear Pascal Struijk’s header unconvincingly for Llorente to crash home from six yards.
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