Sheffield United's John Fleck celebrates after scoring their first goal during their Premier League game against Aston Villa at Bramall Lane on Saturday. Photo: Lee Smith/Reuters

SHEFFIELD – A superb second-half double by midfielder John Fleck sent Sheffield United up to fifth in the Premier League with a 2-0 home win over fellow newcomers Aston Villa, whose captain Jack Grealish missed a second-half penalty.

After a dull first period, the hosts burst into life five minutes into the second half with a brilliantly-worked opener, Chris Basham back-heeling the ball to John Lundstram who fired it across the box for Fleck to lash home from close range.

The build-up play for Fleck's second goal was equally impressive as the Blades worked the ball in from the left before striker David McGoldrick hooked a pass over his shoulder to Fleck, who again finished confidently.

The visitors were thrown a lifeline when the video assistant referee (VAR) called play back to award them a penalty for handball, but Grealish thumped his spot kick off the crossbar and the ball was cleared by Lundstram.

With tough games against fellow strugglers Southampton, Norwich City and Watford to come over the busy Christmas period, that penalty miss seemed to knock the stuffing out of Villa as they slumped to their third league defeat in a row.

Sheffield United have 25 points from 17 games, while Villa are on 15 and will drop into the bottom three if Southampton draw or win at home to West Ham United in the late kickoff.

Reuters