Aston Villa pay price for testy 2-1 triumph over Leicester City
Aston Villa claimed a vital win against bottom-dwellers Leicester City, in what was a fiery and fascinating Midlands duel.
It was not all good news for Villa, however, who will now have to sweat over the fitness of Ashley Westwood and Tom Cleverley.
The midfield pair paid for the fiesty nature of the clash, amid a spate of bookings and crunching challenges.
Paul Lambert will certainly have concerns over squad depth as the vibrant Villans delve deeper into the festive fixture list, with a derby against West Bromwich Albion next up.
This game had the feel of an early relegation battle and both sides seemed to realise the significance of the match, with goal hero Alan Hutton declaring it a “massive” win.
Though the visiting Foxes started as the brighter of the two teams, a lack of quality and awareness in defence saw them loose a lead yet again.
Gabriel Agbonlahor and rampant Hutton were the two standout stars for the hosts, with their speed on the counter exposing Leicester’s leaky rearguard.
The Foxes drew first blood, however, as tricky Riyad Mahrez glided to the edge of the area after being gifted too much space. Stopper Brad Guzan spilled the Algeria international’s low shot into the path of Leonardo Ulloa, who duly pounced.
Ulloa’s return to form provided a spark of hope, but even this turned sour, as the after effects of a full-blooded challenge from Clark saw the Argentine attacker replaced at half time.
It was Villa anchorman Westwood, later stretchered off after Jamie Vardy’s ill-timed tackle, who crafted the reply just minutes later. The Englishman’s smartly worked set piece dipped dangerously into the area, allowing Ciaran Clark to break free and head home unchallenged.
Right back Hutton also illustrated his attacking intent from kick-off, with an early sweeping cross almost providing an assist for Christian Benteke to latch onto, though the Belgian was unlucky to fire wide.
The Scotland international kept probing, however, and his persistence paid-off deep into the second half. Determined Hutton ran the length of the pitch before keeping his coolness and composure to net the winner in spectacular style.
Electric Agbonlahor was the architect of the move, pressing deep in his own half to snatch the ball before driving towards goal at speed. His strength and pace posed a constant threat throughout, creating a host of openings.
Leicester left back Paul Konchesky’s sending off, for a post-tackle scuffle with Hutton, was contentious, but seemed to spark a fightback from the Foxes, who were fired-up following the red.
Nigel Person can certainly take positives from this loss, though they may feel hollow on the short ride home.
Much-criticised keeper Kasper Schmeichel may have conceded two, but a string of fabulous saves saw bullish Benteke and crafty Clark both denied in the latter stages, as his club pushed for an equaliser.
Foxes fans may have been fretting over a lack of goals, but is in defence where Leicester need to improve if they are to stop dropping late points and lift themselves from the bottom of the table.