Aston Villa were the architects of their own downfall on Saturday afternoon as they were beaten 4-2 by relegation battlers Leicester City at Villa Park, despite taking an early lead. An opportunity to soar into the top half of the Premier League goes begging for Unai Emery’s men, who were impressive on the attack but incredibly shaky at the back once again in a thrilling end-to-end clash. The Lions were never going to get away with their extreme sloppiness, and Leicester did well to take advantage.
The home side dominated the opening moments as they looked comfortable playing quick passes in the final third, and they grabbed an early opener as Ollie Watkins slotted the ball home from close range in the ninth minute. Emiliano Buendia was so unlucky not to score a wonder strike as his powerful left-footed effort from about 25 yards struck the crossbar, but Watkins reacted quickest to poke the ball home.
Leicester didn’t take long to respond, however, as their high press paid off to earn them an equaliser just two minutes later. Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez took a short goal kick to Boubacar Kamara, who dilly dallied before being tackled by Kelechi Iheanacho just 10 yards from goal. The Nigerian was far more alert to the situation as he played short to James Maddison, who rode a Ezri Konsa sliding challenge and passed it into the far corner.
Emery’s side looked as if they hadn’t exactly learned from their big mistake against Stevenage a few weeks back as they continued to invite plenty more pressure by stalling and playing too slowly from the back. When they did eventually get out of their own half, though, it was far more like it as the pace picked up and led to a number of opportunities.
Just before the half hour mark, three big chances came in as many minutes, the first being a huge one spurned by Watkins. Buendia’s deep cross found the Villa striker at the far post but he was unable to get the ball out of his feet. Danny Ward got a slight touch on the delivery, but Watkins had to do better. Moments later, Buendia hit the woodwork for the second time as his glancing header from an inswinging Douglas Luiz corner flicked off the crossbar. The hosts finally scored with their third chance as Watkins cut back onto his left-foot and his cross-come-shot deflected off Leicester debutant Harry Souttar - an own goal to make it 2-1.
Once again, though, Villa were unable to make their lead count and they actually lost it all together before the half time whistle had even been blown. The Foxes, who had been looking continually dangerous with their high attacking line, made a quick break on the counter and earned a swift equaliser. Victor Kristiansen, who claimed a poor clearance away from Villa defender Tyrone Mings, played the ball wide to Harvey Barnes, who cut in and put in a curled delivery to an unnmarked Iheanacho. The former Man City striker dived in and put the ball past Martinez, but he would never have had the opportunity if Mings hadn’t gone to sleep.
Matters got even worse for Villa in the 45th minute as Kamara was caught out in possession yet again. Within just seconds the ball traveled from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to Iheanacho to debutant Tete, who rounded Martinez and finished cooly, sending the away support into raptures. Heading into the break it was 3-2 to the visitors, leaving Emery plenty to criticise in the changing room.
Leicester nearly extended their lead just seconds into the second period as Villa were caught sleeping yet again. Youri Tielemans’ defence-splitting ball made it through to Iheanacho but he was unable to find the net, with his effort sweeping just wide. The hosts had a sequence of their own opportunities soon after but were unable to capitalise. The hectic, end-to-end nature of the game intensified even further as both teams made substitutions. Alex Moreno, who came on at half time for Digne, looked very eager to get the ball forward and into the area as he impressed down the left with countless deliveries. Another half time addition, Philippe Coutinho, also appeared rather sharp with some decent chances created for the likes of Watkins and Bailey.
Coutinho thought he’d scored to bring Villa level in the 71st minute as he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box a phase or play or two after a corner, but an offside in the build-up meant his smile soon turned to a frown of disappointment. Although it was Emery’s team who had the majority of the ball, it was yet another defensive blunder that allowed Leicester to put the game beyond doubt with a dozen minutes to go. Moreno was unable to deal with a long ball and Dennis Praet dribbled around Martinez - just like Tete - before placing it in the bottom corner.
From that moment on, Villa looked deflated and frustrated – as did Emery down on the touchline. Rodgers and his team got it so right to put pressure on a defence they knew would be caught out – and it was, on so many occasions. Leicester earn a huge three points to soar further away from the relegation zone but Villa remain at a standstill in 11th. Here are our player ratings for today’s home side, including two 8/10s and three 3/10s.