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Aston Villa 1-0 Leeds United

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Aston Villa secured their place in the Championship play-offs and boosted their automatic promotion hopes with victory over mid-table Leeds United.

Villa deservedly went in front when Lewis Grabban powerfully headed in Jack Grealish’s cross from six yards.

Glenn Whelan cleared Kalvin Phillips’ shot off the line as Leeds improved but Grabban, Jonathan Kodjia and Albert Adomah all had chances for the hosts.

Villa’s victory leaves them two points behind second-placed Fulham.

The Cottagers play their game in hand at home to Brentford on Saturday, while third-placed Cardiff are a point ahead of Villa but have played two games less than Steve Bruce’s side.

However, Villa, who handed striker Kodjia a first start since late October’s second city derby with Birmingham after injury, did all they could to keep up the pressure on their two promotion rivals. They can now concentrate on trying to overtake them in their final three games after guaranteeing their play-off spot and a likely home tie in the second leg of the semi-finals.

Ezgjan Alioski gave them an early scare when he forced Villa keeper Sam Johnstone to tip over his 20-yard drive in the opening minutes but, after that, the home side gradually took control.

Robert Snodgrass’s shot was well saved by Leeds keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell before Grealish retrieved an over-hit cross from Ahmed Elmohamady and floated it back into the box for Grabban to score his 17th Championship goal of the season and fifth for Villa.

Leeds posed more of a threat after the break but Phillips’ effort was the closest they came to an equaliser.

Grabban, Kodjia and Adomah all had shots saved by Peacock-Farrell, but Villa held on to claim a 14th home league win this season, the first time they have achieved that since 1983-84.

“We’ve done enough to win the game. It was never a classic, but we’ve got over the line.

“After a big game against Cardiff, this is now back to back wins, which is always important.

“We got the job done, but there were some tired bodies out there.”

Leeds United boss Paul Heckingbottom told BBC Radio Leeds:

“In the second half, we wanted more control of the game but we couldn’t get that goal to get us back in it.

“Bailey made big saves when we got stretched and the young defenders, Tom Pearce, Paudie O’Connor and Matthew Pennington were excellent.

“There may be more players put in before the end of the season as we’ve said we want to carry a smaller squad next season.”

bbc.com

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