The unbridled supremacy of Leeds was summed up with the final kick of the match as the otherwise outstanding Jack Harrison drove a shot into the side-netting – while four of his team-mates queued up behind him unmarked loudly demanding the simple cut-back and Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz threw his arms up wondering just what was going on.
Who could blame him. This was a stunning display by Leeds and from Patrick – or is it Hat-trick – Bamford as the striker claimed the trio of goals that took them up to third in the Premier League table. Leeds have not been so high since September 2002 and it was 10 years before that when one of their players last scored six goals in the first six league matches of the season. His name? Eric Cantona.
The Frenchman also knew all about thriving on unpopularity and although Bamford is a very different type of player and personality he is certainly not liked at Villa after the last meeting between the two sides in April 2019. It was an anarchic Championship fixture then with Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa ordering his team to allow Villa to equalise after a controversial goal and Bamford later receiving a two-match ban for conning the referee in getting Anwar El Ghazi sent off for which he later apologised.
This time Bamford departed with a wide grin and the match-ball on an evening when Villa’s hopes of going to the top of the table were ended, along with their 100 per cent start to the season, and having conceded two goals in their opening four games they let in three here. It could have been more – a lot more – with Bamford himself spurning two clear chances in the first-half before each of his goals surpassed the previous one with its degree of accomplishment.
In the end it was another remarkable return for the faith shown in Bamford by Bielsa. “A dream come true,” Bamford said, grinning. “When the third went in it was elation. A big moment for me. It is testament to how the team has worked. Without them I wouldn’t be able to score and Marcelo has put a lot of trust in me…People say Bielsa is a myth but we have shown Leeds are here and are here to compete.” The praise was equally fulsome from Bielsa who even referred to the 27-year-old forward as a “noble player” and Bamford is certainly a different proposition from when he was last in the Premier League and when he was accused of lacking the hunger to succeed and scored just once in 27 appearances.
Lacking the hunger to succeed and scored just once in 27 appearances. Leeds were all the more laudable considering Bielsa had to re-organise his side and re-work his defence, with captain Liam Cooper and England international Kalvin Phillips injured, and also took off Phillips’ replacement Pascal Struijk mid-way through the first-half before he was sent off. Maybe it would have been different for Villa had Struijk been red-carded, and he could have been after fouling Luiz having already been booked, or Luke Ayling, playing at centre-half, not scampered back to clear a Jack Grealish shot off the line when the game was goalless.
Villa will also argue they should have had a penalty, for a challenge on Grealish at the end of the first-half, but head coach Dean Smith did not hold back on his verdict. “Very frustrated, especially with the last 40 minutes,” Smith said. “They scored the first goal and we got worse and they were very good. We probably got away with a 3-0 in the end with the chances they had. Who knows what would have happened if we had scored?” Still Villa are certainly far better than last season.
However Leeds were stronger, quicker and more threatening and after goalkeeper Illan Meslier saved from Grealish they took over. It was from a wonderful, free-flowing attack that led to their first goal with Harrison – providing more compelling evidence questioning why he should be in Manchester City’s squad rather than on loan – finding Rodrigo whose shot was parried by Emiliano Martinez with the ball trickling out to Bamford who tucked it home. Suddenly Bamford was transformed.
He collected a pass from Mateusz Klich and was allowed to turn and shift the ball on the lip of the Villa area before leaving Martinez rooted with a powerful drive that rippled high into the net. The hat-trick came when Helder Costa ran in from the right, exchanged passes, and Bamford deftly evaded one challenge, held off two more defenders and caught out Martinez by clipping the ball back across the goalkeeper.
There could have been more as Leeds claimed 60 per cent possession and had 27 shots and thrillingly continued to pour forward in numbers but the victory and their magnificent return to the Premier League after the 16-year absence was emphatic enough.