Leeds United unable to hit the heights again in disappointing 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa

“They've had ups and downs and so have we,” was coach Marcelo Bielsa's assessment of how Leeds United and Aston Villa have performed since they met at Villa Park in October.

The Whites' football in surging to the title last season was a riposte to the Bielsa burn-out myth, their energy against Southampton on Tuesday a reminder that they are far from running on empty.

But in this most demanding of seasons in this most demanding of leagues, following up one good performance with another in the space of half a week is far from easy. Hardly surprisingly in their first season back in the Premier League, Leeds have not yet mastered that consistency.

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They were far from dreadful against Aston Villa, just not quite where they needed to be. Leeds dominated possession without making enough of it.

MANE MAN: Leeds United right-back Luke Ayling

Pablo Hernandez's heavy touch from an 87th-minute Raphinha cross summed up their night. Even “El Mago” could not magic something up for him, although in his case a lack of football rather than too much might be to blame for his lack of sharpness.

With the visitors quietened after a vigorous start to the game, it meant the contest was decided by the side's differing fortune with the Elland Road pitch in the opening 10 minutes.

It left the hosts plenty of time to do something about it, but they just did not have it in them.

The unreliability of a surface relaid in January and now just causing different problems is no excuse – both sets of players had to deal with it – but where Leeds got unlucky, things fell Villa's way, and Anwar El Ghazi's goal proved to be the decisive moment of a disappointing evening under the Elland Road lights.

The game was about 50 seconds old when the Whites were able to play Patrick Bamford, scorer of a brilliant hat-trick in the reverse fixture, in behind Tyrone Mings but he slipped at a crucial moment, turning his shot into a pass Raphinha very nearly got on the end of.

Five minutes later Villa had a similar moment with a very different outcome.

This time, when Ollie Watkins slipped, his shot picked out El Ghazi, played onside by Liam Cooper, and he found the net.

The man sent off for his angry reaction to Leeds's controversial goal when the sides last met at Elland Road, in the Championship, could have had four goals in the early stages as Leeds failed to deal with him when he drifted off the left wing. Illan Meslier had to tip a shot over from him in the 14th minute, then get down low to another in the 18th. He also had a shot narrowly wide from a Watkins lay-off.

By then Leeds were starting to find their feet, looking for dangerman Raphinha, who started on the left but switched wings with Helder Costa late in the first half.

Their 11th-minute chance had been out of keeping with the football at that stage, Tyler Roberts making an excellent touch from an awkward ball in the build-up and finish the move by forcing a good save as Raphinha's blocked effort rebounded to him.

But though Leeds ramped up the pressure, it did not result in more work for Emiliano Martinez.

Cooper headed at him at a corner won by Raphinha but Stuart Dallas shot wide from a Mateusz Klich lay-off, Roberts shot over and Raphina played a pass just too far in front of Dallas after twinkling his toes, and Luke Ayling shot wide before forcing a save with a looping header from a corner.

Villa attacks were becoming scarce but when Roberts did give the ball away at a short corner, Watkins worked Meslier.

Leeds's second-half frustrations came out in bookings for Roberts and Klich.

Villa threatened sporadically, Tyrone Mings having a header deflected over at an El Ghazi free-kick and the later blazing over when Roberts gave the ball away, precursor to his making way for Hernandez, who had a shot deflected wide when fellow substitute Ezgjan Alioski's cross was cleared to him.

Raphinha head a great chance from Jack Harrison's 89th-minute centre but his header into the turf was both over and wide.

Although Meslier came up for a corner in the fifth added minute, there was no barrage, no siege on Martinez's goal. It was not Leeds at their thrilling best but they are not yet capable of churning that out twice a week.

Leeds United: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Dallas; Struijk (Alioski 5); Costa (Harrison 64), Roberts (Hernandez 71), Klich, Raphinha; Bamford.

Unused substitutes: Casilla, Davis, Gelhardt, Cresswell, Jenkins, Huggins.

Aston Villa: Martínez, Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Nakamba, McGinn; Traore, Ramsey (Sanson 79), El Ghazi (Trezeguet 88); Watkins.

Unused substitutes: Heaton, Taylor, Luiz, Barkley, Engels, Davis, Hayden.

Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).

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