Lans­bury strikes to main­tain Villa run

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By An­drew Cof­fey

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.”

PICTURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

KING HENRI: As­ton Villa’s Henri Lans­bury scores the equaliser and, inset, Leeds cel­e­brate Pon­tus Jans­son’s opener

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