Leicester City 4-0 Aston Villa
Report by Chris Griffin
The stats tell the story. City had 65% possession; seven shots on target against Villa’s one; and nine corners against Villa’s none. After an opening ten minutes in which Villa threatened a little, City drew their opponents’ sting and ran the game. This was a welcome performance, far more in keeping with the team’s autumn form. After only 12 points from the last 12 games this was a much-needed display to boost the confidence of both players and fans. The early season high tempo intensity – both in and out of possession – was clearly restored.
Brendan Rodgers retained Albrighton, brought in Justin for the injured Chilwell and started with Perez, Tielemans and Vardy on the bench – each one a first choice earlier in the season. After an uneventful opening Villa showed signs of pushing forward. Grealish played Targett in but Hourihane miskicked the full back’s cross. Then Hourihane’s excellent free kick reached Samatta at the far post but he could not stop the ball rebounding harmlessly off his leg for a goal kick.
City started to secure a foothold. A good move down the left saw Justin cross into the box but Reina cut it out. Then a beautiful ball from Praet sent Iheanacho through and he panicked Engels into sending a header dangerously close to an own goal. From the ensuing Maddison corner Evans had a free header but sent it directly at Reina who clung on gratefully. Barnes and Justin then combined and Mings shepherded the ball out for a corner from which Soyuncu headed over the bar.
The fans quickly came to life when Ndidi dispossessed Grealish and won a free kick at the same time. Justin burst into the area and was tackled from behind by Guilbert who just about had enough of a touch on the ball to make the tackle legal. Praet sent over an excellent cross but there was no one in the six-yard box to apply the finish. The impressive Justin crossed again and Engels headed clear for a corner. Then Maddison executed a superb cut back for Barnes but the young winger delayed his shot and the chance was gone.
City were laying siege to the Villa penalty area. Following a free kick Pereira sent in a superb in-swinging cross from the left. Iheanacho sent his header wide with Reina well beaten.
Some fans were beginning to be a little edgy as to whether a goal would come but Barnes put their minds at rest with his fourth goal in his last seven Premier League games. Leicester cleared their lines and Praet passed to Iheanacho who passed to Albrighton. The winger sent an excellent ball into the Villa half in the outside left channel. Barnes collected it before the on-rushing Reina could. He pushed the ball round the keeper and then drove a fierce low shot past three defenders into the corner of the net: a very impressive goal.
Leicester continued to press. Hourihane received a yellow card for pulling back Pereira. Mings, Guilbert and Engels headed clear in quick succession as the crosses rained into the Villa area. In a rare moment Samatta took advantage of a Soyuncu error but the Leicester centre back remained calm and took back possession. Half-time came with City one up and probably thinking it should have been more.
The second half started with City on attack. Justin headed Reina’s clearance back into space for Iheanacho to run onto. The striker swerved into the penalty area but his shot lacked accuracy, allowing Reina to save. Following a foul on Justin, Maddison’s excellent free kick found Evans whose header flashed past the post. Eventually Villa had a shot of their own but Hourihane’s effort flew high and wide passed Schmeichel’s goal.
The ever-aggressive Barnes intercepted the ball and played in Maddison whose pass found Iheanacho right in front of goal. Sadly, the striker’s first touch was too heavy and the chance was gone. That was Iheanacho’s last piece of action. Vardy came on to a thunderous welcome, while Iheanacho was applauded for his excellent hold up play despite the missed chances.
Vardy was nearly on the score sheet immediately following a ball into the box which Reina reached first. Then Justin fed Barnes. The winger cut into the box and his cross to the far post was intercepted by the falling Mings. Referee Oliver gave a penalty for hand ball by the Villa player. VAR supported this though some Villa fans will no doubt feel the contact was shoulder rather than arm. Nevertheless, Vardy found his first kick of the match to be a penalty, which he drove down the middle of the goal as Reina dived away to the left.
At 2-0 City eased a little and both Praet and Evans collected yellow cards as the visitors pushed forward. Praet was replaced by Tielemans, leaving some fans wondering why the excellent Praet seldom seems to have a full 90 minutes. Even so, City went back onto the front foot. Two great left wing runs by Barnes turned the Villa defence but he overhit his cross both times. Schmeichel made his first save in the 78th minute from a Guilbert effort.
City soon increased their lead. Terrific work by Evans outside his own box saw the ball played to Barnes. His run gave the team a forward momentum and he found Vardy in space. The striker cut into the Villa box and attempted a cut back that was blocked. Vardy collected the loose ball and fired it into the goal at the near post. Make no mistake, Jamie is back.
City kept pressing. Maddison’s shot was deflected for a corner. Then came the best goal of the night. Barnes was perfectly placed to sweep in an excellent Albrighton cut-back after a one and two touch passing sequence involving Tielemans, Mendy, Pereira, Tielemans again and Maddison. When City play football of such quality it really is a joy.
Another scintillating passing move in extra time saw Albrighton set up in space for a close-range shot but he fired wide. Never mind: City had been a pleasure to watch. Each player played his part. But there has to be a special word for Barnes: two goals and two assists. All credit goes to him.
Brendan Rodgers was obviously delighted with his players. “It was a very, very good win. An important win. The past few games we haven’t been at our level. In terms of attacking, we were much better this evening. After the first goal we went on and played very well. We want to win and early on you could see our confidence wasn’t where it has been. The only way you regain that confidence is hard work and these players have been brilliant. Tonight, the intensity was there and we didn’t give away too much.”
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira; Evans; Soyuncu; Justin; Ndidi (Mendy 83’); Praet (Tielemans 76’); Albrighton; Maddison; Barnes; Iheanacho (Vardy 59’). Subs not used: Ward; Morgan; Fuchs; Perez.
Aston Villa: Reina; Guilbert; Engels; Mings; Targett; Elmohamady (El Ghazi 63’); Luiz; Nakamba; Hourihane (Davis 67’); Grealish; Samatta. Subs not used: Konsa; Drinkwater; Trezeguet.
Referee Michael Oliver. Attendance 32,125
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