ASTON VILLA held their nerve to see off Leeds – with a win carved out thanks to some pure Argentinian grit.
Once Leon Bailey had made amends for his howler of a miss against Wolves with a third-minute opener, Leeds took over.
However skipper for the night Emi Martinez defied Jesse Marsch’s men with some stunning saves to preserve that slender lead.
And it was another bit of Argy magic at the other end of the pitch which ultimately did for Leeds when Emi Buendia headed home a second midway through the second half.
Actually make that some VAR-gy magic as Buendia’s goal was originally flagged offside.
Buendia wagged his finger at ref Michael Oliver and VAR took another look and decided he was right as he pounced on Illan Meslier’s parry from Bailey’s piledriver to loop his header over the Frenchman.
Villa were never able to relax however as Leeds sub Patrick Bamford pulled one back for Leeds with his 100th league goal after some magic from Leeds wonder winger Wilfried Gnonto.
But in the end it was Villa and their Argentinian duo who showed some world class survival instincts!
Unai Emery knew what he was doing when he handed Martinez the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured John McGinn and ahead of recent stand-in Ashley Young.
Not content with winning the World Cup, Martinez then won the toss and took Leeds by surprise by ditching tradition and choosing to shoot towards Villa’s favoured Holte End in the first-half.
It turned out to be a smart move by the man who can do little wrong these days because within three minutes the Holte End was on its feet as Villa raced into an early lead.
Leeds will be kicking themselves as they could and probably should have beaten them to it if only they had been more clinical.
The visitors forced an early corner which Jack Harrison whipped in towards the near post where Marc Roca had stolen a march on his marker.
However the Spaniard failed to connect and Tyrone Mings bundled the ball to Ashley Young – 17 seconds later the ball was in the back of Leeds’ net!
Young, who is enjoying a prolonged Indian summer, fired it forward to Bouboucar Kamara and the Frenchman surged forward before suddenly cutting inside.
He released Bailey who made a mug of Pascal Struijk teasing him, then tormenting him as cut inside onto his favoured left foot before firing high past Meslier.
The Leeds keeper must have been livid that Struijk hadn’t shepherded him wide.
But Bailey was all smiles as he turned his Holte End tears to cheers, nine days after he had sobbed his heart out on virtually the same spot of turf after blowing a late match-winning chance against Wolves.
It was a moment of sweet redemption for the Jamaican.
But there were still 87 long minutes remaining and Leeds were never going to lay down and lick their wounds.
Marsch’s side are as stubborn as any of their Yorkshire followers and they dusted themselves down and set about Villa.
First Villa fans were treated to an earlier than expected look at new left-back Alex Moreno, who was sent on after 10 minutes following the injury to Lucas Digne’s shoulder.
The new arrival from Real Betis looked the real deal – he had to be as Leeds retaliated.
Rodrigo spun Ezri Konsa in the penalty area but Douglas Luiz spotted the danger and slid in to deny him.
Then we had an unexpected bit of deja vu as Villa Park was suddenly treated to a flashback from the World Cup.
Douglas Luiz conceded a free kick 22 yards out, Harrison provided the stepover and Aaronson cutely slid the ball through to Rodrigo beyond the ball, rather than shoot.
The Spaniard’s shot was blocked by Martinez but Leeds were furious and claimed Mings had held back their striker.
However VAR agreed with Michael Oliver that it wasn’t enough to merit a penalty.
But you had to admire Leeds’ cheek in trying to recreate the Netherlands classic Wout Weghorst semi-final goal against Argentina – while Martinez had already seen the script!
Ollie Watkins was another early Villa casualty as he limped off to be replaced by Danny Ings on the half-hour.
Leeds almost levelled when Rodrigo raced on to Harrison’s through ball and rounded Martinez but Moreno became an instant hit with Villa fans, racing back to clear his netbound effort off the line.
Then on the stroke of half-time Martinez showed why he is arguably the world’s number one No.1 with a stunning point blank save to deny Harrison, then Gnonto.
As the game raged through seven minutes of first-half stoppage time Mings blocked a Harrsion shot and Rodrigo swept the rebound home while on the turf.
However the Spaniard was judged to be offside when he chested the ball down to his teammate.
Martinez hurled himself to defy Gnonto before Villa doubled their lead.
Bailey’s powerful hit was beaten out by Meslier and Bailey swooped to loop a header beyond the stricken goalie.
After initially ruling it out Villa Park erupted as VAR set the record straight.
Gnonto’s battle with ever-green Young was a classic and the kid finally got the better of his veteran foe seven minutes from the end when he rag-dolled the Villa man before setting up Bamford to score from close range.
However despite eight minutes of stoppage time Villa stayed strong to grind out three crucial points.