Anwar El Ghazi and Tyrone Mings emerge as top performers as Aston Villa pull off a defensive masterclass against Leeds United.

Leeds United’s mixed run of form continues as they stumble to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa on Saturday. The result at the Elland Road halts their progress after they had initially reached the top half of the league table with a win over Southampton in the last game in midweek.

For Aston Villa, it is a vital victory as they maintain pressure on the likes of Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham – effectively remaining in the contest to finish in the European places this season. The Villans deserve the victory too, following a brisk start to the game that saw them find the opener inside five minutes thanks to Anwar El Ghazi.

The early goal allowed the visitors to employ a tight defensive scheme against a Leeds United side that simply couldn’t craft enough goalscoring opportunities. At the end of the day, they amassed only three shots on target and it was Aston Villa who looked more dangerous despite having just 30% of possession.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the sides in this important result in the Premier League this weekend.

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Leeds United

Illan Meslier: 6.5/10

Illan Meslier was let down by poor defensive structure from his teammates to concede the first goal. The goalkeeper didn’t have too much to do during the remainder of the game as Leeds dominated possession.

Luke Ayling: 6.5/10

Luke Ayling tried to influence the game whenever he found the opportunity, often providing useful forward passes. However, he could have done much better to minimise the influence of Anwar El Ghazi on the flanks.

Diego Llorente: 7/10

It was a decent outing for Diego Llorente, who looked composed in possession, helping out his side in the build-up play. Also looked formidable in headed and physical duels.

Liam Cooper: 6.5/10

Liam Cooper was culpable for playing El Ghazi onside for the opening goal. Aside from that, the Leeds captain did a good job, showcasing his aerial prowess to keep Aston Villa at bay.

Stuart Dallas: 6/10

Stuart Dallas tried to make things happen with his forward balls from the left-back position. But, it seems he is more suited to a central midfield role – something Marcelo Bielsa should definitely consider in the upcoming matches.

Pascal Struijk: 6/10

One of the most in-form players heading into this game, Pascal Struijk struggled in the holding midfield role. The youngster looked steady but it wasn’t enough to add that extra bit of oomph going forward.

Helder Costa: 4/10

Helder Costa was given the nod ahead of Jack Harrison, in what was a rather baffling move by Bielsa. The Portuguese winger’s one-sided style of play didn’t do him any favours as he failed to create any notable chances. Also costed several turnovers.

Tyler Roberts: 6/10

Tyler Roberts’ quality in possession coupled with his effectiveness in the link-up play was hardly useful for Leeds United this evening. The attacker didn’t manage to provide enough in the final third. Poor end product.

Mateusz Klich: 4/10

Mateusz Klich’s poor run of form continued as he once again struggled in the advanced midfield role. The Pole simply couldn’t use his aggression to good effect as Aston Villa cleverly dropped deep.

Raphinha: 6/10

Raphinha did look dangerous, at times, like he normally does. However, those cutting edge movements and passing were slightly missing in his game.

Patrick Bamford: 5.5/10

Patrick Bamford didn’t have a great game at all. The club’s top scorer couldn’t involve himself in the game, although he was devoid of quality supply in the final third.

Substitutes

Ezgjan Alioski: 5/10

Ezgjan Alioski replaced Struijk in the 53rd minute to offer more impetus from the flanks. Failed to change the complexion of the game, although, in truth, he should have started the match.

Jack Harrison: 5/10

Harrison eventually came on in the 64th minute at the expense of Costa – a move that should have been made before the start of the game.

Pablo Hernandez: 5/10

Replaced Roberts during the final phase of the game. Couldn’t influence the game with his creativity and passing.

Aston Villa

Emiliano Martinez: 6.5/10

Emiliano Martinez didn’t have a lot to do as Leeds United could only conjure up three shots on target, all of which were routine for the Aston Villa goalkeeper.

Ahmed Elmohamady: 7/10

Filling in for the injured Matty Cash, Ahmed Elmohamady used his experience and game-reading ability to minimise the influence of Raphinha this evening. Had issues, at times, but a decent performance nonetheless.

Ezri Konsa: 8/10

Ezri Konsa was a rock at the back for the Villans, using his imposing presence to provide very little freedom for the likes of Bamford and Roberts.

Tyrone Mings: 8.5/10

Tyrone Mings was a vital cog in Aston Villa’s defensive masterclass. He motivated the team to do well and remain strong till the final whistle. The player himself was deeply involved in the game, winning all of his aerial duels in the game.

Matt Targett: 7/10

Matt Targett’s challenge of facing Helder Costa wasn’t as difficult as Raphinha as the Villa full-back was helped by the winger’s rather predictable movements.

John McGinn: 7.5/10

It was yet another industrious performance from John McGinn, who worked his socks off for his team in the second line of press. Not exactly useful in the final third, but that is understandable given Smith’s tactics.

Marvelous Nakamba: 7.5/10

Dean Smith’s decision to play Marvelous Nakamba ahead of Douglas Luiz provided dividends as the combative midfielder helped his team disrupt the flow of the opposition.

Jacob Ramsey: 7/10

Jacob Ramsey offered a lot of running in the middle of the park, aiding McGinn and Nakamba in the second line of press. He showed good discipline and positioning sense before being replaced late in the game.

Bertrand Traore: 6/10

Bertrand Traore offered very little creativity going forward as Aston Villa’s number one priority was to contain the Leeds United pressure.

Ollie Watkins: 6.5/10

Ollie Watkins certainly had a better time than he had in the reverse fixture. However, the Villa forward couldn’t make too much an impact to cause problems for the Leeds backline on too many occasions.

Anwar El Ghazi: 8.5/10

Anwar El Ghazi was unsurprisingly the man of the match in this encounter, thanks to an inspiring performance from the left flank. Aside from the goal, the winger was the focal point of the Aston Villa on the counter, causing a lot of issues for Ayling out wide.

Substitutes

Morgan Sanson: N/A

A late replacement for Ramsey. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Trezeguet: N/A

A late replacement for star man El Ghazi. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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