Leicester City share spoils with desperate Aston Villa
Leicester missed a chance to pad their lead atop the Premier League table Saturday, drawing 1-1 with bottom club Aston Villa at Villa Park. Goals from Shinji Okazaki and Rudy Gestede paced the sides as Remi Garde’s men picked up their second positive result in a row. The Villans are still in deep trouble; with just 12 points from 22 games, they remain nine points from safety.
Arsenal can leap past both Leicester and Manchester City tomorrow with a win at Stoke.
While the Foxes bossed most of the first half, looking supremely confident, it was clear after the restart how much their exertions in London had taken out of them. Having taken Spurs to an FA Cup replay then snatched three points on the road, the Foxes looked a bit leggy playing their second away game in a row.
Leicester got the first goal of the night out of nothing. A long ball out of the back from Kasper Schmeichel over the top found Jamie Vardy in full stride, and on the half-volley, he flipped the ball over keeper Mark Bunn’s head. Bunn was able to retreat and swat the ball clear – but only as far as Okazaki, who buried the ball with the keeper helpless in the net.
Okazaki then was instrumental in setting up the next key play, storming into the area and appearing to go down under contact. Referee Roger East waved play on and as the ball was whipped left to right, Aly Cissokho blocked Riyad Mahrez’ shot with his arm. On replays, the call looked a bit harsh, but Mark Bunn was able to kick away the ensuing attempt after Mahrez put a tepid shot right down the middle.
After the restart, Villa began to come into the game. That said, it must be noted that the game was marred by some suspicious refereeing from East. East missed two clear handballs and a slap on a player in the penalty box despite having each of the plays directly in front of him. A case in point was that Robert Huth got away with a stiff-arm to the temple of Libor Kozak in the box to send the forward tumbling.
Leicester continued to look the more dangerous on the corner, but they never were able to link up. Vardy and Danny Drinkwater combined well on multiple occasions, but did not have what it took in the final third. Credit must be given to keeper Bunn, in for American keeper Brad Guzan; on the evidence, Bunn may have sealed the new starting role there.
Rudy Gestede then leveled the game up with 15 minutes to play. Villa had been enjoying the better of the play for some time, but the play should have been waved dead as, to beat Huth, Gestede clearly batted the ball down to control it. His shot then took a big nick off Wes Morgan to beat Schmeichel.
The result could also prove to be a key one for Leicester: this was two points dropped on the road against a poor side, and despite the game being a Midlands derby, the Foxes missed too many chances for comfort. Is this the beginning of their decline?