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Three things we learned from Leeds - Aston Villa

Aston Villa hung on for the victory at Elland Road after Anwar El Ghazi breached Leeds United's resistance in the fifth minute.

Leeds - Aston Villa: Anwar El Ghazi’s fifth-minute goal was enough for Aston Villa to get its first win in three tries with a 1-0 win over Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday.

Playing without Jack Grealish for a second-straight week, Villa’s early goal held up despite Leeds holding 69 percent possession and a 13-9 advantage in shots.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Villa sits eighth with 39 points, six back of fourth-place West Ham with two matches-in-hand on the Irons.

The loss is Leeds’ third in four, its 35 points closer to fourth than the bottom three.


Three things we learned from Leeds - Aston Villa

1. Villa finds a new way: Last week was Villa’s first Premier League match with Grealish starting and going 90 minutes in 51 matches, and it looked that way as Villa fell 2-1 to Leicester City. The organization was much better in Villa’s second try, as Marvelous Nakamba ran the midfield as part of a super strong spine from Emiliano Martinez all the way up to Ollie Watkins (even if the latter’s assist to El Ghazi came via a slip while shooting).

2. Raphinha all alone: Leeds got nothing from any of its front five attackers aside from Raphinha and it was no surprise that all three of Marcelo Bielsa’s subs were positioned above the defenders and below center forward Patrick Bamford (who wasn’t great but has produced enough goals to work through the rough day). Raphinha’s four key passes were one more than Pascal Struijk, Tyler Roberts, Mateusz Klich, Helder Costa, and Bamford combined, with Jack Harrison’s one off the bench joining fellow subs Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez in making that total... four.

3. Marvelous choice to choose marvelous Marvelous: Dean Smith plugged Marvelous Nakamba into the Starting XI for just the fourth time in the club’s last 13 Premier League matches. He was wonderful, winning all five of his duels while making six interceptions. His passing was sloppy and perhaps that’s why Smith can’t trust him more often, but Nakamba was a force in the center of the park.

Man of the Match: Anwar El Ghazi

Five shots, three on which were target, while scoring the lone goal and his three key passes came on just 18 attempts. Economical.

Leeds - Aston Villa recap

Villa was in front quickly when El Ghazi timed his run perfectly to thump an Ollie Watkins shot-cross past Ilian Meslier.

Emiliano Martinez made a good close-range save on a hammered Tyler Roberts shot.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the other end, Meslier deprives El Ghazi of a brace before halftime.

Roberts got into a scrap with Matt Targett at the hour mark. The Villa man was given a yellow for his pullback of Roberts, his counterpart for a violent reaction.

The match really had more possible red card (or second yellow) incidents than those of excitement, and that’s likely how Smith drew it up without Grealish.

Follow @NicholasMendola