Just as he had done two weeks before at Manchester United, Gerrard once again soaked in the atmosphere at Goodison Park as the home crowd made their feelings known towards the former Liverpool captain, and such hostility certainly appeared to galvanise the visiting squad.
Gerrard’s fearless attitude translated into three points on the pitch, with all 5ft 8in of Emiliano Buendia rising highest to head home from Lucas Digne’s corner before celebrating in front of the Toffees faithful, but projectiles launched in the direction of Villa’s players from the crowd marred the joyous occasion.
Nevertheless, taking four points from their last two Premier League games before the break has given Villa some solid foundations to build on under Gerrard, whose side have a top-half finish in their sights as they occupy 11th spot in the rankings.
A late charge for Europe may be a bridge too far for the Lions, but a plethora of January arrivals will aim to keep the continental-chasing pack looking over their shoulder in the coming weeks as Villa seek to end a trend of inconsistent home form.
The hosts have not failed to score at Villa Park in the Premier League this season but have only posted two wins from their last seven in the top flight on familiar territory, with Wednesday’s game surely a prime opportunity to improve on that underwhelming statistic.
A far cry from the ever-exciting Leeds United of the 2020-21 season, Marcelo Bielsa’s side regained some of their attacking bite in the earliest stages of 2022, but they were brought crashing back down to earth by a lowly Newcastle in front of their own fans.
Jonjo Shelvey’s free kick 15 minutes from time condemned Leeds to a ninth defeat of the season at a time when they appeared to have turned a corner with back-to-back wins over Burnley and West Ham United, with the Magpies serving up a harsh dose of reality.
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The 15th-placed Whites do still hold a seven-point lead above the bottom three, but it only takes a couple of results to not go their way for Leeds to be dragged into a bitter fight for survival, with away games not exactly their forte this season.
Indeed, Bielsa’s men have won just two of their 10 league away matches in the 2021-22 season and have already shipped 23 goals in their 10 road fixtures – only Southampton and Norwich City possess worse records in that department.
Leeds ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Villa Park in this fixture last season, but Dean Smith’s Lions responded with a 1-0 victory at Elland Road in February 2021 thanks to Anwar El Ghazi’s strike, with the first meeting between the two sides this term postponed due to COVID-19.