Gestede the goal hero as Villa pinch crucial point from Foxes
Holly Thackeray | January 16, 2016
Aston Villa 1-1 Leicester City
- Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki put the Foxes ahead with a first-half toe-poke
- Aly Cissokho gave away a spot-kick but Riyad Mahrez missed his penalty
- Substitute Rudy Gestede nabbed an equaliser on 75 minutes
- The Foxes stay third in the Premier League on goal difference
- Villa remain rock-bottom
Villa bring fightback to Foxes
Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City slipped up in their Premier League title challenge away to Aston Villa, who fought back to thrill home fans with a late leveller from Rudy Gestede.
The Foxes (odds-on with Coral at 19/20 to next beat Stoke City) had inched ahead of their fellow Midlands foes thanks to sharpshooter Shinji Okazaki’s instincts to chase a Jamie Vardy chance into the net, but lost their grip on the game as Villa showed survival spirit to pinch a vital point.
Foxes forwards the difference in first-half
Both teams began rather cautiously at Villa Park, trading jabs that were ultimately toothless for much of the opening 45 minutes, yet Leicester’s lethal frontmen once again almost predictably gave the visitors an early edge.
Czech striker Libor Kozak made only his second start this season against Ranieri’s rearguard and it told, as the 26-year-old looked out-of-sync with his side, misreading the intent of Jordan Veretout, who found him deep in the Foxes area.
Somewhat sandwiched between imposing pair Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, Kozak still had space to collect and take a potshot, but instead attempted to lay it off to a surprised Ashley Westwood, and the chance trickled out.
There appeared to be telling wobbles at the other end, however, as Villa goalie Mark Bunn dashed dangerously out of his area to intercept onrushing Vardy, and duly received a yellow for his red mist.
Kozak had yet another shot at putting the hosts ahead, though, as a weak Huth backpass fell to the forward on a platter, though the Czech dithered in possession, allowing Kasper Schmeichel to smartly close up shop and force a squeezed strike, before Morgan hacked away the follow-up cross.
Leandro Bacuna later whipped the ball in for Westwood, with no frontman to be found in the foxes box, as the Englishman’s attempted overhead kick went sky high.
Poor finishing from Remi Garde’s guys eventually proved costly, as the Foxes fired ahead on 28 minutes. A punt up-field found Vardy characteristically slipping between the Villans backline, and the Three Lions forward stuck out a leg to send a first-time chip spectacularly goalward.
Bunn had the beating of it and brilliantly clawed the ball mid-air, though it fatally fell to Japan marksman Okazaki, who was sniffing about in the box and managed to poke it over the line, despite brief doubts if it was a valid goal.
Mahrez mistake costly
Minutes later it could have been 2-0 to Leicester, if not for more Bunn belligerence, with the keeper refusing to be beaten twice in quick succession.
Intuitive Okazaki was on hand to cause trouble again, but was brought down to penalty complaints, though Vardy carried on and slipped a pass to Algeria international Riyad Mahrez. The wing magician headed straight for goal, but returning full back Aly Cissokho was adjudged to have raised his arms to block, finally gifting the Foxes their spot-kick.
Mahrez shrugged off his previous penalty miss to step up, but yet again fluffed his lines, firing limply at Bunn, whose save sent the Villa fans into full voice. The visitors were then rattled, as Westwood pumped a pinpoint ball into the box for Jordan Ayew, though the attacker could only shoot wide of the post. Still, the Villans went into the break buoyed.
Gestede grabs leveller
Ranieri responded to Villa’s increased confidence in possession by swapping goal scorer Okazaki for fullback Ritchie De Laet, surrendering the initiative somewhat though the hosts seemed to be contained, probing rather harmlessly.
Sweet feet from a jinking Ayew saw the home team target Leicester’s net a little more directly but Bacuna sent the resulting strike straight to Schmeichel’s clutches.
While, down the pitch Vardy’s pace stretched proceedings, though the speedster was forced wide, with his cross confusing Drinkwater who had burst into the box, only to hit the ball with the back of his heel and send it wide.
The addition of Leonardo Ulloa for Mahrez almost paid instant dividends, as De Laet picked out his fellow substitute superbly, yet the rusty Argentine let his chance go begging.
This time it was the Foxes who were to pay for poor end product, as Villa’s push for an equaliser finally reaped results. Goal-getter Gestede, called off the bench as Garde’s last roll of the dice, shrugged off the attentions of Huth far too easily, before slotting past Schmeichel around the 75 minute mark.
Aston Villa’s tails were clearly up, and justly rewarded by a wall of sound from Villans fans, who egged their team on for a potential winner and second triumph on the trot, though it was not to go all their way.
Ranieri’s men seemed again to have been shaken and, having already hauled-off two game changers in Okazaki and Mahrez, dropped youngster Demarai Gray on for his debut.
A hefty five minutes of time were added after a few altercations and disagreements on the pitch, and Vardy threatened to make the most of it, but his last frantic run on goal soared over the crossbar.
The Foxes face a tough test versus Stoke City next and may well rue not bagging these points, while Villans fans can take a sprig of hope from the fight their side showed in this scuffle. The relegation dogfight is not over yet.
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