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Football manager Bielsa hailed for act of sportsmanship that cost Leeds United promotion

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By Alastair Jamieson  & AP and Reuters
The controversial Leeds goal sparked clashes on the pitch.
The controversial Leeds goal sparked clashes on the pitch.   -   Copyright  Associated Press

Leeds United football manager Marcelo Bielsa has been hailed for a remarkable act of sportsmanship that also ended any hope of his team being promoted to England’s Premier League.

The Argentinian instructed his players to allow opponents Aston Villa to equalize following a controversial goal.

The resulting 1-1 draw snuffed out Leeds’ final chance of elevation from the English Championship.

There was a melee on the pitch after Leeds took advantage of confusion over Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia who lay injured on the pitch.

Although the referee did not blow his whistle, other Villa players slowed and had expected Leeds to kick the ball out of play but instead Bielsa’s team continued forward and scored.

Villa player Anwar Al Ghazi was so furious that he confronted and wrestled with Leeds players until being sent off.

In response, Bielsa asked his players to allow Villa to score unchallenged when the game was restarted.

“It is a remarkable gesture,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “They are playing to come up to the Premier League and there is something at stake... the whole world [should] watch that.”

After the game, Bielsa explained his decision.

“English football is known around the world for the noble features, for how we play the competition,” he said. “We didn't gift Villa a goal, we just gave back the one we took.”