Match ends, Sheffield United 2, Aston Villa 0.
Sheffield United 2-0 Aston Villa: John Fleck scores twice as the Blades move up to fifth
Chris Wilder believes Sheffield United's performances are starting to change perceptions about his side after their latest victory lifted them up to fifth in the Premier League table.
Having come from behind to win at Norwich last Sunday, John Fleck's second-half double against Aston Villa earned the Blades back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time since 2006.
Two games before the halfway point of the season, United are four points off a Champions League spot and looking down on Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal in the table.
"Possibly people are changing their opinion on us," said Blades boss Wilder.
"We're classed as a pragmatic, structured and organised team but I think if you look at our goals that's doing us a bit of a dis-service. Our play was effective and all managers are after that."
After an uneventful first half, Fleck finished off a sumptuous move - started by Chris Basham's back-heel before John Lundstram's quality delivery - to give the hosts the lead.
The Scotland midfielder doubled the advantage with a composed finish following David McGoldrick's clever hook before Villa missed a penalty awarded following a video assistant referee (VAR) check for a John Egan handball.
However, Jack Grealish's effort cannoned off the bar as Villa sank to a 10th Premier League defeat of the season.
Relentless Blades showing no let-up
Wilder said before this game that his team still faced a battle to retain their Premier League status despite their impressive form, which has included beating Arsenal and coming from behind to hold Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea.
This hard-earned win leaves them on 25 points, while a sixth clean sheets ensures the Blades have the best defensive record outside the top two.
They turned on the style after a drab opening 45 minutes in which neither side managed a shot on target.
Having been booked in the first half to trigger a one-match suspension against Brighton next weekend, Fleck doubled his tally for the season with two well-taken goals.
His sweeping finish broke the deadlock after Basham's delightful back-heel caught out Villa's defence, while Fleck showed composure to beat Tom Heaton and make it 2-0.
The Blades remain unbeaten on the road since 19 January, yet their home form - which includes defeats by Southampton and Newcastle - has been unpredictable.
This gritty performance, however, ensures they launch a busy spell of four games in 13 days, starting with next Saturday's visit to Brighton, with confidence sky high.
Crunch time for Villa
While Sheffield United are flying high at the top end of the table, Villa are flirting with danger at the other end.
Having lost three games in a row, their next three top-flight matches are against fellow strugglers Southampton (home), Norwich (home) and Watford (away).
Despite missing key defender Tyrone Mings through injury, Dean Smith's side stifled the Blades for long periods but their inability to keep a clean sheet after the interval once again cost them.
Fleck's double means Villa have conceded 22 of their 30 goals after half-time.
It is not only in defence where there is need for improvement. At the other end of the pitch, striker Wesley rippled the side-netting yet the Brazilian is now without a goal in nine games.
Trailing 1-0, Grealish headed a good chance wide while his miss from the penalty spot, after the Blades had doubled their lead, extinguished any hope of a comeback.
In the end, Villa left Bramall Lane without managing a single attempt on target - not good enough for a team that is leaking goals at a worrying rate.
Man of the match - John Fleck (Sheffield United)
'Class act' - what they said
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: "I have to say, Dean Smith and John Terry were in the tunnel clapping our players because they recognise our players' performance today. That's a class act and people won't see that but I want to mention it.
"It was a proper second-half performance. It was a cagey first half and I don't think we had many big opportunities, but I felt it was coming before half-time and we stepped it up in the second half.
"We rode our luck with Jack Grealish missing the penalty, but I think the right result has happened today."
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith: "Our overall performance wasn't what I wanted from this group of players. We didn't cause them enough problems.
"The second goal was a bit of a killer but they probably deserved the win on the day.
"The players need lifting, we've lost three games on the spin but I just said to the players that a few games ago we were walking off the pitch at Old Trafford a couple of days after beating Newcastle and we should have got a win at Manchester United."
Penalty woes for Villa - the stats
- Of the 16 Premier League sides to take a penalty in the competition this season, Aston Villa are the only ones yet to score a spot-kick.
- Sheffield United's John Fleck has scored four goals in his last four league games at Bramall Lane, one more than he managed in his previous 73 in the league on home soil.
- Fleck has scored a double for the first time in his 314 English league games.
- Aston Villa have lost six of their last eight Premier League games (W1 D1), after losing just one of the five before that.
- Sheffield United have lost just one of their last 10 Premier League games (W4 D5), after losing three of the five before that.
While Sheffield United have a free week to prepare for next Saturday's game at Brighton (15:00 GMT), Aston Villa are back in action on Tuesday when they host a weakened Liverpool - whose first-team are at the Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar - in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals (19:45 GMT).
- 16NorwoodBooked at 12minsSubstituted forBesicat 86'minutes
- 4FleckBooked at 16mins
- 17McGoldrickSubstituted forOsbornat 90'minutes
- 22MoussetSubstituted forMcBurnieat 61'minutes
- 30HauseBooked at 64mins
- 18TargettBooked at 69mins
- 8LansburySubstituted forDouglas Luizat 66'minutes
- 21El GhaziSubstituted forTrézéguetat 80'minutes
- 9WesleySubstituted forKodjiaat 69'minutes
- 6Douglas Luiz
- 27El Mohamady
- Peter Bankes
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Sheffield United 2, Aston Villa 0.
Attempt missed. Kortney Hause (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by John McGinn with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Enda Stevens.
Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Matt Targett (Aston Villa).
Substitution, Sheffield United. Ben Osborn replaces David McGoldrick.
Attempt missed. David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) right footed shot from very close range is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Enda Stevens with a cross.
Attempt missed. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by John McGinn.
Attempt blocked. David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by John Lundstram.
Offside, Sheffield United. Jack O'Connell tries a through ball, but George Baldock is caught offside.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Muhamed Besic replaces Oliver Norwood.
Foul by Oliver McBurnie (Sheffield United).
Frederic Guilbert (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Kortney Hause.
Attempt saved. David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Oliver Norwood.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Trézéguet replaces Anwar El Ghazi.
VAR Decision: Other Decision Confirmed.
Penalty missed! Still Sheffield United 2, Aston Villa 0. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) hits the bar with a right footed shot.
VAR Decision: Penalty Aston Villa.
Penalty conceded by John Egan (Sheffield United) with a hand ball in the penalty area.
Goal! Sheffield United 2, Aston Villa 0. John Fleck (Sheffield United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by David McGoldrick.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Jonathan Kodjia replaces Wesley.
Matt Targett (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Matt Targett (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Matt Targett with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jack Grealish.
Foul by George Baldock (Sheffield United).
Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Douglas Luiz replaces Henri Lansbury.
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Björn Engels.
Kortney Hause (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
David McGoldrick (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Kortney Hause (Aston Villa).
Corner, Sheffield United. Conceded by Frederic Guilbert.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Oliver McBurnie replaces Lys Mousset.
Attempt missed. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Anwar El Ghazi with a cross.
Attempt missed. Wesley (Aston Villa) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Anwar El Ghazi with a cross.
Foul by Chris Basham (Sheffield United).