LEEDS, England (AP) — Anwar El Ghazi’s early goal clinched Aston Villa a 1-0 win at Leeds and lifted his side to within a point of the English Premier League top six on Saturday.
El Ghazi was left unmarked to turn home the only goal from close range in the fifth minute and dogged defending saw Villa avenge its 3-0 home loss to Leeds in October.
Villa secured just its second win in seven league games on the road, while Leeds’ up-and-down first season back in the top-flight continued.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side was denied back-to-back home wins after Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat of Southampton and was rarely allowed to hit the same heights.
When Raphinha went close to scoring inside the opening 30 seconds — he just failed to connect with Patrick Bamford’s cross — it appeared this would be another entertaining game at Elland Road.
But while it ebbed and flowed in the first half, Villa shut down its opponents after the interval and, for Leeds, the game ended in a whimper.
Villa had a penalty appeal turned down when a corner struck Luke Ayling on his arm and then capitalized on sloppy Leeds defending to take the lead.
Ollie Watkins slipped as he fired at goal, but the ball found its way to the unmarked El Ghazi in the six-yard box and, although he also lost his footing, he steered home his sixth league goal of the season.
Leeds responded through midfielder Tyler Roberts, but his thumping effort was well saved by Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and then El Ghazi twice went close to extending Villa’s lead.
The Dutchman’s first shot was tipped over the crossbar by Illan Meslier and he pulled his second, a low effort, just wide.
Stuart Dallas fired in a low shot and home skipper Liam Cooper headed straight at Martinez as Leeds chased an equalizer.
El Ghazi maintained his shoot-on-sight policy, but was wayward with another effort and at the other end Helder Costa’s low shot was blocked and Roberts fired over, with Leeds restricted to half-chances as halftime beckoned.
Leeds’ players continued to force the issue at the start of the second period, but the killer pass eluded them.
Cooper did just enough to divert Villa captain Tyrone Mings’ header wide from a corner, but the free-flowing action before the break made way for a more scrappy affair.
Leeds struggled to break down a resilient defense and when substitute Jack Harrison’s late cross offered the team its best chance of rescuing a point, Raphinha fluffed his header.
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