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Wenger hails Leeds' Bielsa for sportsmanship in Villa draw

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By Reuters
Wenger hails Leeds' Bielsa for sportsmanship in Villa draw
Soccer Football - Championship - Brentford v Leeds United - Griffin Park, London, Britain - April 22, 2019 Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa Action Images/John Sibley   -   Copyright  JOHN SIBLEY(Reuters)

(Reuters) – Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa’s sportsmanlike decision to allow Aston Villa to score unopposed in Sunday’s 1-1 draw is all the more remarkable given what is at stake for the Championship club, former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has said.

Leeds, who are looking to secure promotion to the Premier League, netted the opener through Mateusz Klich in controversial circumstances as Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia lay injured on the pitch, sparking a melee.

Villa’s Anwar Al Ghazi was sent off for his role in the ensuing protests after which Bielsa asked his players to allow the visitors to score unchallenged when the game was restarted.

“It is a remarkable gesture. They are playing to come up to the Premier League and there is something at stake… the whole world has to watch that,” Wenger, who left Arsenal in May last year after 22 years in charge, told beIN Sports.

The draw meant that second-placed Sheffield United joined leaders Norwich City in earning promotion to the top flight while third-placed Leeds’ hopes lie in winning the Championship playoffs, with West Bromwich Albion and Villa also involved.

The fourth and final spot is yet to be decided with Derby County, Middlesbrough and Bristol City all in contention.

Wenger said Villa had erred by taking their foot off the gas with a player down injured and expecting Leeds to kick the ball out of play.

“Only the referee can stop the game. Villa should not have stopped to play. Leeds took advantage of it and that is where they were guilty,” the Frenchman added.

“It is a kind of fair play that is usually on the football pitch. Only the ref can stop the game but it is remarkable from Bielsa.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)