Leeds United fell to a frustrating 1-0 loss to a resolute Aston Villa side after an Anwar El Ghazi goal ensured that the Villains maintained their grip on the top half of the the Premier League.
Leeds United had been going through a bit of an injury crisis of yet and the continued absence of Kalvin Phillips was not over yet. Diego Llorente seemed to finally be fighting fit though as he started his second game on the run for the first time in a Leeds shirt.
Aston Villa were without Matty Cash and Jack Grealish for the clash. Ahmed Elmohamody and Anwar El Ghazi had stepped in for the loss against Leicester and filled that void again at Elland Road.
Patrick Bamford scored a hattrick in the reverse fixture and seemed keen to improve on his record against the visitors in the first minute. Tyler Roberts linked up nicely with the striker and sent him towards the Villa defence, Bamford produced a wonderful piece of skill to work his way into the area and take a shot. The Elland Road pitch, which has been a topic of much contention in recent weeks, had other ideas and, as Bamford went to shoot, he slipped and the shot went well off-base. It almost turned into a great cross for Raphinha but the Brazilian couldn’t quite get there.
Only four minutes later, Ollie Watkins did the same thing, aiming a shot towards the far post but slipping as he hit the ball. This time it fell perfectly into the feet of El Ghazi, who wasn’t being tracked by Helder Costa. The winger took one touch to control the ball and scored with his second to put the visitors ahead.
Leeds never say die though and only minutes later a chance fell to Tyler Roberts. The Welshman had been given a run of games in the squad due to an injury to Rodrigo and his performances seemed to be steadily rising, as he latched on to a loose ball though, his keenness to get a goal was his downfall as he venomously struck a shot straight at Emi Martinez.
This game was unique for me personally as I find myself looking at my notes for notable chances and finding it essentially barren from this point forward. El Ghazi had another shot, this time from distance, saved by Meslier. Stuart Dallas had a volley go well-wide after Liam Cooper had brought the ball from defence and Helder Costa had an effort from a corner that seemed to be on it’s way in before it was deflected behind.
The second half was even more closed-off. Aston Villa have become very good at holding onto leads and they didn’t concede any real chances until the last minute of the game when Raphinha, who had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the match, put a header wide of the near-post from only a few yards out. It was a miraculously quiet match and credit must go to Aston Villa for their impressive game management.
A game to forget for Leeds and with tough games against West Ham and Chelsea to come, it could be one that the Whites look back on with regret.