An out-of-sorts Leeds were haunted by Neal Maupay once again as his goal earned Brighton a 1-0 victory at Elland Road which ended their nine-game winless Premier League run.
Maupay tapped home the only goal of the game in the 17th minute after some superb Brighton play, and the striker has now scored more league goals against Leeds - four in five appearances - than against any other opponent in his English career.
Brighton could have added a second goal soon afterwards, but Maupay's deflected cross off Luke Ayling's foot hit the crossbar.
For the first time under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds managed only one shot in a half of football during the opening period and although they were improved in the second half, they did not muster their first effort on target until the 63rd minute when substitute Tyler Roberts fired at the goalkeeper.
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Both sides had chances late in the game but Leeds were unable to register a third successive home victory in the Premier League and remain winless in 2021, keeping them 12th in the table. For Brighton, they end a run of nine league games without a victory and move above Burnley - who lost 1-0 to West Ham - into 16th place.
How Brighton got back to winning ways
Leeds were chasing their first win in 2021 and had a gilt-edged chance inside six minutes. Ezgjan Alioski was chipped through down the left flank, before flashing a low cross into the area. Rodrigo was lurking but Lewis Dunk did just enough to put him off as the ball flashed wide of the post.
Leeds' only shot of the half came when Mateusz Klich fired high into the stands, and was quickly followed by Brighton's opener. It was a superb team goal as former Leeds loanee Ben White drove through the midfield before finding Alexis Mac Allister. He played a neat give and go with Leandro Trossard before squaring the ball for the unmarked Maupay at the back post.
Leeds: Casilla (6), Dallas (6), Ayling (5), Cooper (7), Alioski (7), Struijk (6), Raphinha (7), Rodrigo (7), Klich (6), Harrison (7), Bamford (6).
Subs used: Roberts (7), Hernandez (6), Poveda (6).
Brighton: Sanchez (6), Webster (7), Dunk (7), Burn (7), Veltman (6), White (7), Gross (6), Mac Allister (6), March (6), Trossard (7), Maupay (8).
Subs used: Bissouma (6), Tau (6), Propper (6).
Man of the match: Neal Maupay.
The hosts almost nabbed an instant reply, but a quiet Patrick Bamford could not connect properly with Raphina's left-wing cross as it bobbled wide. Five minutes later, Brighton could have had their second.
It was some more superb, one-touch football from Graham Potter's side, with Maupay then bursting into the area. His cross took a nick off Luke Ayling's foot before pinging off the post and going wide. The Leeds defender was involved again shortly after as White drove forward from deep inside his own half - getting the better of Raphina in the process - but his shot was blocked by Ayling's body.
- Leeds made two changes from their last Premier League game. Illan Meslier and Kalvin Phillips dropped out with Kiko Casilla and Liam Cooper back into the XI.
- Brighton made three changes from midweek. Davy Propper, Bernardo and Percy Tau were replaced by Pascal Gross, Solly March and Neal Maupay.
Leeds were improved after the break - having six shots and 67.3 per cent of the possession - and went close inside five minutes. Raphina's cross found Bamford inside the area, but three Brighton defenders closed in and Dan Burn nicked the ball from his feet. However, it only went as far as Jack Harrison, but his effort fired just wide of the target.
It was a similarly close effort at the other end as Brighton also hunted for their second. A slack pass from Alioski allowed Maupay to drive into the area, before cutting the ball back for the incoming Trossard. However, he could fire high into the empty Elland Road stands.
Leeds finally had a shot on target in the 63rd minute as the impressive Roberts tried to liven up an unusually subdued Leeds attack. Bamford slotted the forward through, but his shot went straight at goalkeeper Robert Sanchez. Both players were involved again shortly after as Bamford was unable to turn a chipped Pablo Hernandez ball goalwards, with it also evading the incoming Roberts at the back post.
There was plenty of attention on Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla before the game with Illan Meslier missing out through illness, and he almost let an effort scramble away from him late on. Adam Webster sent a flying shot his way, and he needed a second grab at it to properly collect.
There were some bodies on the line defending from Brighton in the final throes, but a blunt Leeds attack could not find a way through. Huge cheers went up from the away dugout as the referee blew his final whistle, bringing an end to Brighton's winless Premier League run.
Man of the match - Neal Maupay
Maupay just loves playing against Leeds. He has now scored in each of his last three league appearances against them and in his last two at Elland Road. His goal on Saturday was your typical striker's goal, turning home from a squared cross, although questions will be asked about why he was free to do so.
He was constantly hounding the Leeds defence too. With Casilla under pressure, he would give the goalkeeper a little nudge here and there. Ayling is usually a reliable presence in Leeds' defence, but he had a tough time up against Maupay.
After an eight-game drought, the French striker is finally back in the goals, now netting three in his last five league games. He has also became just the second player to net 10+ away Premier League goals for Brighton after Glenn Murray (11), and fans will be hoping it continues for a long time yet.
What the managers said...
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa: "We can defend better than the way we defended, and we can create more danger and chances on goal than the ones we created. That's the description of our game, which wasn't good. But the result should have been different - even without defending well and creating less danger than we're capable of, we should have managed a better result.
"Normally the opponent has more difficulty managing the ball than Brighton had today, and normally with the amount of the ball we have we create more opportunities on goal. The two basic aspects of our game were lower which is to make it difficult for the opponent when they have the ball and to generate many chances on goal."
Brighton boss Graham Potter: "To come here, third game in six days, to play a team with incredible physicality, and to keep a clean sheet and win 1-0 away from home is a fantastic result. I'm proud of the players. I thought we were smart in our defensive game. If you open up too much you can make it a game that favours them. On the break, I thought we created some opportunities as well to score.
"One-nil wins always show a lot about a team, about the character of the team, especially after the week we've had - Man City, and Newport away after 120 minutes and penalties, it's an incredible effort by the players. I can't be more proud of them.
"We know we're fighting for points. It was important we demonstrated we're up for that fight, we can adapt, we can play against the opposition. We've performed well but we haven't got the points. Today we got three points and overall deserved the points."
Opta stats - Issues for Leeds
- Leeds have conceded 14 league goals at Elland Road this season, as many as they shipped in 23 home games last term in the Championship.
- Leeds have lost their first three matches in a calendar year for the first time since 2014 under Brian McDermott, when they lost their first four in all competitions.
- Brighton's Neal Maupay has scored more league goals against Leeds United (four in five apps) than against any
- Only against Sheffield United in March 2019 (0) have Leeds had fewer shots on target in a game under Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road than the two they registered today against Brighton.
Leeds now have a 10-day break, next facing Newcastle in the Premier League on Tuesday January 26; kick-off 6pm. Brighton are in FA Cup action next weekend, hosting Blackpool on Saturday, before facing Fulham in the league on Wednesday January 27; kick-off 7.30pm.