Anwar El Ghazi’s fifth-minute strike was enough to see off an insipid Leeds United 1-0 as Aston Villa claimed only their fourth Premier League victory without Jack Grealish.
El Ghazi haunted Leeds on his first return to Elland Road since his controversial sending-off in the Championship in 2019, slotting in from close range after Ollie Watkins’ sliced shot fell for him in the area.
Leeds had the opportunity to seal a first league double over Villa in 45 years but could have no complaints after an uncharacteristically flat performance, which was typified by Raphinha, the architect of Tuesday’s thrilling victory over Southampton, spurning a glorious chance to snatch a point late on.
Villa stay eighth in the table, six points off the top four, after securing a first Premier League win in three, while Leeds remain two places and four points further back in ninth.
Leeds United: Meslier (6), Ayling (5), Cooper (6), Llorente (5), Dallas (6), Raphinha (6), Struijk (5), Klich (5), Costa (5), Roberts (5), Bamford (5).
Subs: Alioski (5), Hernandez (5), Harrison (6).
Aston Villa: Martinez (7), Elmohamady (7), Konsa (7), Mings (8), Targett (6), McGinn (7), Nakamba (7), Ramsey (7), El Ghazi (8), Traore (7), Watkins (7).
Subs: Trezeguet (n/a), Sanson (n/a).
Man of the Match: Anwar El Ghazi.
El Ghazi returns to Elland Road to haunt Leeds
Leeds could have opened the scoring inside the opening 25 seconds when Patrick Bamford lost his footing while shooting on the suspect playing surface at Elland Road and looped the ball out to Raphinha at the back post, but the in-form Brazilian was unable to convert.
Leeds survived an early penalty appeal after an Aston Villa corner was flicked onto the arm of Luke Ayling, but the hosts were less fortunate two minutes later as the visitors struck first.
Just as Bamford did in the opening minute, Watkins slipped on the surface while shooting and the ball reached El Ghazi, who unlike Raphinha managed to bring the ball under control and stroke the opener through the legs of Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
Tyler Roberts was prevented from delivering an immediate Leeds response as he stung the palms of Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal, while El Ghazi looked to have adopted a shoot-on-sight policy in a pulsating contest which saw him draw Meslier into action before whistling two further shots wide of the post.
Raphinha posed a constant threat down Leeds’ left, waltzing his way into the Villa area at will, but the hosts’ best chances continued to fall for Roberts, who blazed from 18 yards after dropping into a pocket of space.
Helder Costa saw a shot blocked after a corner was pulled back into his path on the edge of the Villa area, while Watkins was prevented from doubling Villa’s lead on the counter before the break as a last-gasp block took the sting out of his effort on its way through to Meslier.
- Helder Costa replaced Jack Harrison in Leeds’ only change from the win over Southampton.
- Jacob Ramsey and Marvelous Nakamba returned as Aston Villa made two changes from the defeat against Leicester.
Leeds’ intensity levels dipped alarmingly in the second half and that only emboldened Aston Villa to hold onto their first-half lead. It took until 22 minutes into the second for either side to register another meaningful attempt on goal, with Tyrone Mings’ header deflecting wide off Liam Cooper.
The introduction of Harrison, Pablo Hernandez and Ezgjan Alioski did little to rouse Leeds but they could have salvaged a late point when Harrison crossed for Raphinha, but his gilt-edged miss summed up a frustrating outing for Bielsa’s men.
Villa end Elland Road winless run – Match stats
- Aston Villa picked up their first away win against Leeds since December 2000, ending a run of six without victory at Elland Road (D4 L2).
- Leeds have lost six home league games this season, the second highest number of home defeats suffered by Marcelo Bielsa in a single league campaign in his managerial career (8 with Athletic Bilbao in 2012-13).
- Aston Villa have won 23 points away from home in the Premier League so far this season (W7 D2 L4), their highest in a single campaign since 2009-10 (32 pts – W9 D5 L5).
- This was the sixth time Leeds have failed to score in a Premier League game this season, with four of these coming in matches at Elland Road.
- Leeds have conceded a league-high 27 Premier League goals before half-time this season, while the Whites have also shipped a league-high 19 goals from set-piece situations (including penalties).
- Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martínez has kept eight clean sheets away from home in the Premier League this season, more than any other keeper. Indeed, no Villa keeper has kept more on the road in a single campaign in the competition (Brad Friedel also eight in 2009-10).
What the managers said…
Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa: “In the game we played better than the opponent, we had many minutes of dominance and there were very few where we were dominated.
“In the first half we created more chances than they did, even though they scored. The goal is a chance which wasn’t intentional, a shot in which a player slips became a pass for a player who wasn’t even asking for the ball.
“In the first half we created six chances at goal, a good number, with the dominance more shared. In the second half we were completely dominate but only managed to create one chance.
“It was a game we didn’t deserve to lose, the draw would have been something more logical and, if there had to be a winner, it should have been us.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: “The players deserve lots of credit. Our game plan came off really well. We made a really good start and got on the front foot early.
“Our intensity levels were certainly a lot better than they were last week. In the first half against Leicester there wasn’t as much intensity as I’d like. Today was a different game.
“We pressed them really well. We probably made it too open at times, but we restricted them to very few chances in the second half. We wanted to play with safety first and we did that.”
Man of the Match – Anwar El Ghazi
Matchwinner Anwar El Ghazi was involved in seven of Aston Villa’s eight shots in this match, having five shots and creating two chances. El Ghazi scored his sixth league goal, and seventh in all competitions for Aston Villa this season, his best return in both league and all comps for the Villans.
Aston Villa host Wolves on Saturday Night Football at 5.30pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League – before Leeds travel to West Ham on Monday Night Football at 8pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League.