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BBC: Pundit underlines ‘crucial’ moment that contributed to Leeds United win

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BBC pundit Garth Crooks has singled out Luke Ayling’s defensive performance as a key reason for Leeds United’s 3-0 win at Aston Villa.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men came into the Premier League hoping to continue their impressive defensive form in the Championship, boasting a clean sheet rate of 48% in 2019/20.

A rock-solid defence of Luke Ayling, Ben White, Liam Cooper, and Stuart Dallas was disrupted by White’s return to Brighton but Robin Koch has come in and made most Leeds fans forget about the absence of the former loaned.

It’s been a topsy-turvy start to the Premier League for pretty much every team, and Leeds United have been at the epicentre of such chaos, taking the game to every side they’ve faced so far.

A trip to Villa Park was Leeds’ latest test following a disappointing home defeat to Wolves, and it was set to be a tough game after Villa’s four straight wins.

However, after a rocky start which saw Pascal Struijk hauled off before he saw a second yellow, Leeds gained a vice-like grip in the second half and cruised to a 3-0 win.

A huge turning point came in the first half when Jack Grealish came within inches of giving the hosts the lead when he slotted past Illan Meslier, only to be denied by Luke Ayling on the line.

Along with a clean sheet, this piece of individual brilliance was enough to see the right-back named in Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week of the BBC along with Patrick Bamford.

Commenting on his choice to include Ayling, Crooks had this to say: “The clearance off the line by Ayling from Jack Grealish’s shot at arguably the most crucial time in the match against Aston Villa was absolutely brilliant.

“The Leeds captain’s instincts took him to the area where he knew his goalkeeper was exposed.

“It was exceptional defending.”

Ayling has been exceptional since coming into the Premier League, keeping the likes of Sadio Mane in his back pocket.

This performance was another mammoth one, limiting Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins to feeding off scraps, apart from that one chance that was brilliantly cleared.

If we are to steer clear of the relegation zone, Ayling’s consistency is going to be vital as Cooper continues to struggle with injury issues.

He’ll have a tall order next week two with Jamie Vardy starting this season in formidable form, but he’ll be up to the task.

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Leeds United season ticket holder since 2013/14, currently situated in the middle of the FA5 noise. From Pablo Hernandez to 5-1 drubbings, I've seen it all at Elland Road.