Wasted Opportunity as City fail to take chances

Aston Villa 2 Leicester City 1 Aggregate (3-2)

Carabao Cup – Semi Final 2nd Leg, Villa Park – 28th January 2020

Report by Colin Murrant

On the 8th December, City trounced Villa on their home patch 4 goals to 1 in the Premier League with one of their best performances of the season. So, when the draw for the semi-final of the Carabao Cup was made, there were few either side of the divide that doubted City would succeed again over the two legs. Yet, less than eight weeks later, it was to be the Foxes’ fans that left Villa Park in disbelief, disappointment and thinking what should have been.

City had Iheanacho leading the attack in an otherwise Rodger’s preferred team; Vardy was on the bench but not considered not fit enough to start following his Glute injury. The teams entered the arena to a cacophony of noise and pitch long pyrotechnics. The noise around the ground was deafening belying the fact that the attendance was only circa 39,000, Villa Park looks so much larger than that with its vast two tier stands.

The visitors defended the Holte End and it was they who were quickly into their stride, piling the pressure on the Villa goal. In the first ten minutes City had numerous chances, when they were on target they found goalkeeper Nyland in dominant form. In these early stages, Iheanacho was outmuscling Mings and could have had a penalty if he had not been too honest and stayed on his feet when pushed. Maddison had at least three shots, two of which were clawed away from the foot of the post by Nyland.

At this stage it seemed a matter of when, not if, Leicester scored but, as so often happens, on twelve minutes it was the dominated team that took the lead. A 50:50 ball inside the Villa half broke in the home team’s favour, the ball was quickly worked forward to the marginally onside Grealish. As Ricardo got back into position Grealish passed the ball towards the on-rushing Targett. The ball seemed to take a slight deflection off Ricardo straight into Targett’s pass and he hit it past Schmeichel into the far corner of the net. Three minutes later and it could have been worse for City: a free kick to Villa some 35 yards out was hit forcibly by El Ghazi just over the bar.

It was even-stevens now, but on 33 minutes City were denied twice in a matter of seconds. Tielemans had a shot from 20 yards which Nyland somehow tipped onto the crossbar, the ball staying in play. City kept the ball alive and it came to Maddison whose shot was clearly handled by Nakamba. Referee Dean and VAR both said no penalty but half time TV replays showed it was a clear-cut hand ball.

In the second half City started to dominate possession without causing Villa undue concern. City fans were getting exasperated with Schmeichel and the defence passing across the box to engineer a pass forward: Soyuncu was playing to right of Evans again, although most fans feel their best positions are reversed. After a short square up between Grealish and Soyuncu, neither booked, Vardy came on to replace the ineffective Perez. Vardy’s first job was to defend the ensuing free kick which was cleared. The ball came out Konsa and Barnes, the former getting booked for throwing the ball away when he lost the throw decision. This should have been the yellow card that resulted in Konsa missing the final but afterwards it was announced he would be allowed to play.

Some clever interplay put Barnes into the box, the ball broke to Iheanacho but he failed to beat Nyland as he tried to place the ball. Grealish put in a superb cross behind the City defenders yet too far in front of Schmeichel. The ball just eluded Samatta, making a quiet debut for villa.

On 70 minutes City equalised. Maddison, Vardy, Ricardo and Maddison again combined to put Barnes into the area; his cross was met at the far post by Iheanacho who adjusted his feet to strike the ball home. Another run from Barnes ended with Maddison shooting over when he should have done better; City were dominating at this juncture.

On 83 minutes the decisive substitution was made as El Mohamady came on. Evans had a header sail just wide from a corner but then, as the match entered injury time, City’s fate was sealed. Inside the city half, El Mohamady picked up the ball, unchallenged he moved forward before crossing the ball to the far post. Ricardo came across slightly to pick up the player between himself and Soyuncu, this left Trezeguet unmarked and he shot across Schmeichel and Villa were through.

At this point flares were thrown onto the pitch by the home fans. The match finished with a 35- yard Maddison free kick which hit the defensive wall. At the final whistle 1000s of Villa fans invaded the pitch and the scene was hostile as City players were pushed and goaded: Vardy and Maddison seemed to be particular targets. There were also disturbances between a few City fans and the police.

This was a wasted opportunity to reach a Wembley Cup Final. Brendan Rodgers said it was tough to take, Leicester had been the better side: the statistics agree. Over the two legs City had 66% possession, created 43 shots to Villa’s twelve, had 15 shots on target to Villa’s 4. But statistics do not win football matches, goals do. From their 4 shots on target Villa scored 3 times. So, we move on, a position in the top four and another Cup 5th round tie beckon.

Aston Villa: Nyland; Konsa, Mings, Hause, Guilbert (El Mohamady 84), Luiz, Nakamba, Targett, El Ghazi (Trezeguet) Samatta (Davis 67); Grealish. Unused Substitutes: Chester, Lansbury, Hourihane, Sarkic

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Ricardo, Soyuncu, Evans, Chilwell, Tielemans, Ndidi, Maddison, Barnes (Gray 86), Perez (Vardy 67), Iheanacho. Unused Substitutes: Ward, Justin, Albrighton, Praet, Benkovic

Referee: Mike Dean                       Attendance: 39,300

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation