Set pieces torment City again

Aston Villa 2-1 Leicester City

Report by Chris Griffin

The Leicester City team continues to frustrate and confuse its supporters. Unlike the last game against Southampton, City began the game against Aston Villa on the front foot and took a deserved lead. But constant frailties when defending set pieces keep reappearing and, together with some wasteful finishing, ultimately cost City the game. After 15 premier league games the team has scored 23 goals (commendable) but conceded 27 (poor). The players also conceded 25 free kicks against Villa: far too many.

Daka came in for Vardy and Dewsbury-Hall for Soumare. Early signs were encouraging. Leicester pressed well in the Villa’s defensive third and frequently won back possession. Lookman put Daka through in the inside right channel but his cross shot was gathered by Martinez. A Maddison shot was blocked by Nakamba following an excellent Barnes run. Daka beat Ings to a long pass from Evans but shot wide.

It was no surprise when City took the lead after 15 minutes with an excellent goal. Evans found Maddison. The midfielder drove forward and passed infield to Daka. He resisted strong challenges from three Villa players and showed top class vision by playing the ball left to Barnes who dribbled into the penalty area and stroked a controlled and well-placed shot between the legs of Cash and into the net off the far post.

City had a deserved lead and were controlling the game: what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, especially if a set piece was involved. It started a minute later with a self-inflicted wound when Lookman gave away an unnecessary free kick near City’s penalty area. Already the alarm bells were ringing with City fans. Douglas Luiz sent a long in-swinger into the box finding Cash beyond the far post – in so much space you’d think he was in quarantine. Cash headed back across the area where Buendia headed towards goal, the ball apparently receiving a slight touch from Konsa before going past Schmeichel’s despairing dive into the net just inside the post.

Not so long ago there would have been a defender on the post to clear the header but apparently that is not the modern way!

To be fair Leicester went looking for a goal. Smart work by Barnes and Thomas gave Dewsbury-Hall a great opportunity in front of goal but he sent the header wide. Dewsbury-Hall won a corner but it was easily gathered by Martinez. Meanwhile, Schmeichel needed to be alert when Cash shot hard and low but the keeper saved with his feet.

Leicester were putting on the pressure and looked menacing. Good pressing by Lookman in the Villa penalty area led to chances for both Daka and Maddison but each time a Villa defender blocked the effort. Barnes made good ground before passing to Dewsbury-Hall who delayed shooting and a good chance went begging. Thomas was next to try his luck after more good work by Barnes, but his effort flew wide of the posts. Still Leicester persisted. Daka chested down to Maddison a long pass from Evans but Martinez dealt well with Maddison’s shot.

Villa weathered this period and exerted sustained pressure of their own. There was a period where anywhere will do seemed to be the maxim of the City defenders with every clearance going to a Villa player. This triggered a controversial end to the half. Douglas Luiz sent a cross to the far post where yet again Cash was in loads of space. He headed back across goal. Schmeichel parried a shot then put his hand on top of the ball only for it to be instantly kicked into the net by Ramsey. Villa’s joy was short-lived as VAR determined that Schmeichel was in possession of the ball and awarded him a free kick. The law does not read as clearly as might be wished and it was hard to avoid the sense that City had dodged one.

For about 30 seconds City began the second half looking bright and alert with Lookman and Daka combining only for Daka to shoot wide. That was the end of the good news for City fans. Much of the next 25 minutes was dominated by Villa. Evans was working overtime, heading clear a Cash cross en-route to Ramsey, then clearing a cross from Young. A fierce cross from Cash evaded a Villa boot with the goal gaping wide open. Watkins played in Young who shot wide of the far post. Watkins next had a go by himself dribbling deep into the City penalty box but Thomas blocked his shot for a corner.

This, however, was not good news. City left Villa’s two biggest players (Mings and Konsa) unmarked at the far post and it was Konsa who headed in from very close range with not a challenge on him.

The goal seemed to really knock the stuffing out of City. They continued as second best, beaten to every ball, not making tackles and offering little threat going forward because of misplaced passes and slow play. Meanwhile Cash was causing problems again, latching onto a Young cross but his shot was blocked. It took till the 63rd minute for City to have a shot when Martinez grasped a low skimming effort from Dewsbury-Hall. This seemed to wake up City a little. Dewsbury-Hall found Maddison whose left shot curled over the bar. Villa, however, remained a threat. A superb pass from McGinn played Watkins into the penalty area but Schmeichel came out to make a great save.

City made changes with Vardy on for Lookman and Perez for Daka.

In the 75th minute Leicester came close to snatching a second when Barnes rose first to Castagne’s cross but his looping header was brilliantly tipped over the bar at the last second by Martinez.

Villa were now content to defend from deep to keep City at bay. With time running out City had a flurry of attacks forcing corners but Villa dealt with them comfortably. Maddison tried a short corner to the edge of the penalty area but Dewsbury-Hall was beaten to the ball. He claimed a penalty but neither referee Oliver or VAR were interested. A good opportunity to put the ball in the box was wasted when Maddison opted for short free kick which he underhit and Villa cleared easily. Mings cleared a good header by Perez from a Soyuncu cross. At the end Schmeichel came up for a couple of corners but to no effect. And that, basically, was that.

Leicester have won just three of their past 12 games in the league. It is stating the obvious to say that the defence needs fixing especially at set pieces.

Brendan Rodgers acknowledges that defending the dead ball is: “our Achilles heel.” He correctly points out that this “can sap the confidence out of the team…. it’s something we’ve got to fix.”

Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash; Konsa; Mings; Young; McGinn; Nakamba; Douglas Luiz; Buendia; Watkins; J Ramsey

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Castagne; Evans; Soyuncu; Thomas; Dewsbury-Hall; Ndidi; Lookman; Maddison; Barnes; Daka

Referee: Michael Oliver                                 Attendance: 41,572

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