Leeds 0-1 Aston Villa: Early El-Ghazi strike secures the points for Aston Villa
LEEDS, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Anwar El Ghazi of Aston Villa celebrates with teammates Bertrand Traore and Tyrone Mings after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Aston Villa at Elland Road on February 27, 2021 in Leeds, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Anwar El Ghazi's fifth goal of the season in the fifth minute proved to be the only difference between Leeds United and Aston Vila, as  Dean Smith's men moved up to eighth in the Premier League - with two games still in hand on those around them in the table.

Story of the match

Villa were yet again forced into battle without their captain Jack Grealish. However, Smith did make two unforced changes to  the side that were defeated by Leicester City last time out,  as Ross Barkley and Douglas Luiz dropped out and in their places came 19-year-old Jacob Ramsey and Marvelous Nakamba

Meanwhile Marcelo Bielsa made just the one  change to the side that thrashed Southampton last time out, as Helder Costa came in for Jack Harrison

El-Ghazi - who stole the show at Elland Road - opened the scoring  with less than 5 minutes gone on the clock. His corner was unconvincingly cleared away by Leeds, allowing Ramsey to pounce  on the loose ball, before teeing up Watkins, whose shot-cross was latched onto by El-Ghazi as he composed himself and his feet, before slotting it under Ilan Mesiler

Leeds almost immediately responded to their early set-back through the left foot off Tyler Roberts, as he was denied from ten yards out by Emi Martinez in the Villa goal. 

Bielsa was not happy with his side as the opening stages of the game played out. For someone who is almost always found silent in a squat, the Argentine was rather animated in his technical area as Leeds continued to carelessly give the ball away.

El-Ghazi could've - and maybe should've - guaranteed himself the match ball by the half hour mark, as he came close to adding to his opener numerous times. With just over 15 minutes gone on the clock - after Smith's men yet again, won the ball high - Villa's No.21 saw his effort from just outside the box tipped over the Leeds crossbar, after he checked inside to move the ball onto use less preferred left foot, but sill forced the 'keeper into work.

Leeds started to get into their groove as they began to move the ball quicker and with it increased purpose. They were nearly rewarded after a lovely move from the Whites left Villa's back line helpless. Raphina found himself in his usual position on the left hand-side - with chalk on his boots - as he looked to drag the Villa fullbacks out of position. His excellently timed ball picked out the onrushing  Roberts in the box, he laid it off for Stuart Dallas to strike, but the Northern Irish international  failed to steer his shot between the Martinez's posts. 

Moments later, El Ghazi tried an effort from a similar position as he looked to creep his effort into the bottom corner, something he was inches away from executing. 

Gareth Southgate had made the trip North on Saturday to closely watch some of his international players, and potentially pay more attention to some of those looking to break into his squad for this summers European Championship's

Ollie Watkins can  be really impressed with the display he produced tonight in Southgate's presence as his work against the two Leeds centre halves was very magnificent - even if he was unable to add to his 10 league goals this season. Leeds, - like they often do - left themselves fairly exposed at the back as their gung-ho style of play looks to press the opponent high and win the  ball back in those dangerous areas.

That left Watkins as the only outlet for large parts of the games , as ran himself ragged against Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente. Just before halftime the former Brentford man won the ball back on the edge of his own box before driving 70-yards into the Leeds penalty area before his shot was deflected behind. 

Just before Peter Banks blew for half-time tempers started to flair, as Watkins and Llorente clashed, after a challenge the Leeds centre half was less than impressed with. Evidently, no love has been lost between the both sides after that infamous Leeds goal here when the sides met in April 2019. 

Leeds came after the interval and made a flying start, Bielsa had clearly had strong words with his side at half time after a rather uncharacteristic opening 45 minutes. 

As much as his side flung themselves in the faces of Smit's men, they were unable to find a way past the ever excellent Martinez, as Leeds much like their form tells us this season, can be very hit or miss. 

The introduction of Jack Harrison with 25 minutes left gave the home side a fresh lease of life as they continued to knock on the door. But Villa were resolute and compact in their defending, as Tyrone Mings and co looked to add another clean sheet to their names. 

It was the central defender himself, who came closest to making it a comfortable ending for the away side as he rose highest to meet the goal-scorers wide free kick only for his goal-bound effort to be flicked away by Cooper. 

Leeds' best chance of snatching a point came deep into the half as the fourth official began tot up the added time, Harrison drove from deep with the ball before picking out Raphina at the back post with a delightful cross. However, the finish summed up his - and Leeds' night - as he failed to steer it in direction of Martinez and his goal.

Starting XI's 

Leeds United: Meslier, Ayling, Stuijk, Cooper, Llorente, Dallas, Klich, Costa, Roberts, Raphinha, Bamford.

Aston Villa: Martinez, Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Ramsey, Nakamba, Mcginn, Traore, Watkins, El Ghazi.

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