HENRI HOOVERS UP THE PLAUDITS
Lansbury strikes to maintain Villa run
THE transfer window is still a month away but Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce admitted Christmas had come early after ‘new player’ Henri Lansbury’s return from injury against Leeds.
The 27-year-old midfielder had not played in the Championship for almost three months thanks to a serious knee problem, but marked his return in style against the Whites to grab a second-half leveller off the bench.
Pontus Jansson’s header had given the hosts the lead, but with fit-again Lansbury and Jack Grealish both coming off the bench to change the momentum of the match, Bruce was buzzing to have the duo back to freshen up his options.
“Henri’s been struggling with a knee injury and in the last few weeks looks to have been free of pain,” Bruce said.
“It’s shown in the way he’s trained and looked recently, and we know what a good player he is. Now, it’s like having a new player.
“We were without him and Grealish for three months. It’s never easy with talent like that out, so it’s good to have them back.
“When you go behind at Elland Road and come back to get a point I think you take it. I was delighted with how we did in the second half.
“The substitutes came on and really changed things for us. Henri and Jack put us on the front foot and if anybody was going to win it, it was going to be us.
“In front of what was a 30,000-strong, hostile crowd, we’ll take a point and move on.”
Lansbury’s goal meant Villa extended their unbeaten run in the Championship to four games, but it was the hosts who were on top in the first half.
Leeds had to wait until the 19th minute to take a deserved lead, with Pablo Hernandez’s sublime delivery from a corner setting up Jansson to beat Chris Samba in the air and nod home.
However, the Spanish midfielder, Leeds’ most threatening player, was forced off just before the interval with a hamstring strain.
And from there on the tide turned in Villa’s favour, with Lansbury and Grealish introduced just after the hour and the latter setting up the former for his first goal in the claret and blue, Lansbury driving a low shot past Felix Wiedwald in off the far post.
However, Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen did not want to blame Hernandez’s injury for the turnaround.
“He’s very important with the ball and without the ball,” he said. “He’s intelligent and was a loss in the second half.
“But I believe (the swing in momentum) was a little bit because of their quality but also about us needing to keep the ball. That’s what we missed but I cannot complain.
“Of course we would have liked three points, especially after the perfect first half against one of the strongest teams in this league.
“We had chances, but it’s a good step for us to continue.
“It is cleverness to understand that when you can’t win a game, or when it’s difficult to win a game, you don’t lose it.
“This is the difference between the team from a month ago and the team we have now.
“We’ve had Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton and Aston Villa, three teams who want to be promoted direct. I’m very satisfied with how the players have taken on these games.”
KING HENRI: Aston Villa’s Henri Lansbury scores the equaliser and, inset, Leeds celebrate Pontus Jansson’s opener