Dean Smith felt his Aston Villa side proved they are not a one-man team after winning 1-0 at Leeds in the continued absence of Jack Grealish.
England midfielder Grealish has missed Villa’s last two games due to an unspecified lower leg injury.
But Anwar El Ghazi’s decisive early goal at Elland Road lifted them to within six points of the top four with two games in hand.
“It’s nice to win a game without Jack in the team because, as I said, there was a lot made out of us not winning a Premier League game without Jack,” Smith said
“But, as I said, they were against Liverpool, who went top of the league, Leicester who went second and Wolves who went seventh.
“They weren’t give-me games, that’s for sure, and Jack would have been the first cheering that win (at Leeds) on from home.”
After losing to Leicester at Villa Park last week, Smith’s side were criticised for not being as effective without Grealish in their line-up.
But Smith got his tactics spot on at Elland Road as Villa stifled Leeds with a high press and then some deeper, dogged defending to preserve their slender lead.
“It’s been an all-round team performance this season and we’ve probably talked about Jack less this season than we did last season,” Smith said.
“To still be talking about him shows the quality he’s got. He’s been at a super-high level this year and got into the England team and we want him back as soon as possible, such is his quality.”
Grealish is hoping to return to contention for Wednesday’s game at Sheffield United.
Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich admitted Marcelo Bielsa’s side lacked their trademark cohesion in the final third.
Inconsistency has put the brakes on their swashbuckling progress and Klich said Villa made life difficult after Leeds had swept passed Southampton in a 3-0 win at Elland Road in midweek.
“Obviously we knew Aston Villa were going to press us and they are a very good side as well,” Klich told the club’s official website.
“We conceded the goal which didn’t help us and it did help them massively, so that was the game.
“We tried to get back into it and we had some chances that we missed. We brought on offensive players to try and change the game, but it didn’t work this time.”
Leeds remain 10th, four points behind Villa, and next up is a trip to high-flying West Ham in eight days’ time.
“We have these games sometimes, we just need to be more clinical,” Klich added. “We managed the ball well but in the final third we didn’t really create much danger, maybe a couple of chances, but we can do better.”