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League Cup Match Report: Aston Villa 2 - 1 Leicester City

Heartbreak as Foxes crash out of the Cup in injury time.

Aston Villa v Leicester City - Carabao Cup: Semi Final Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Aston Villa 2-1 at Villa Park on Tuesday night, giving Villa a 3-2 victory over the two legs. An early Matt Targett goal against the run of play in the first half put the Foxes under pressure, but they fought back through a Kelechi Iheanacho strike ten minutes from time. An injury-time effort from Trézéguet put the home side through to the final.

Overreacting is half of why I love this sport. I’m contractually forbidden from revealing the other half.

Manager Brendan Rodgers did not “mess around like last time” (he says, paraphrasing Fosse Posse’s Matt Cook): Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind the back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çaglar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. The central midfield consisted of Wilfred Ndidi in the holding role flanked by Youri Tielemans and James Maddison in the middle. Attacking midfielders/strikers Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez lined up on the right and left respectively with Kelechi Iheanacho leading the line. Jamie Vardy was deemed sufficiently recovered from his ̶h̶a̶m̶s̶t̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ glute knock to make the bench along with Danny Ward, James Justin, Demarai Gray, Marc Albrighton, Filip Benkovic, and Dennis Praet.

It was an absolutely breathless start to the match. A long ball over the top should have been easily dealt with by Tyrone Mings, but he made a hash of it and let Iheanacho in. The former Manchester City man did well to hold off the defender, but his close range effort was well blocked by Ørjan Nyland. At the other end, a Matt Targett ball across the face of the box was blocked with by a brilliant skate save by Schmeichel. Back in the Villa area, another long ball found Iheanacho. He held it up and slid it to Maddison in the host’s penalty area and Nyland did very well to turn the goal bound effort around the post.

Try saying “Nyland” like Seinfeld says “Newman”. It doesn’t really help, but it does capture how I feel about the Villa keeper right now.
Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Leicester were dominating the run of play and getting plenty of players forward but were made to pay for failing to make the dominance count. Villa got the ball forward quickly on a break. Jack Grealish did well to hold off both Söyüncü and Ricardo and found Targett on the overlap. The former Southampton man hit it first time, beating Schmeichel with a low shot into the far corner. The Foxes had six shots to Villa’s one in the first 10 minutes, but the score was now 1-0 to the Villains.

The pace slowed down a bit with the hosts content to absorb the pressure and invite the Foxes forward. Leicester were limited to some long range Madders efforts. It took until the half hour mark for Leicester to being to lay seige to the Villa goal, but again, Nyland and VAR conspired to keep Leicester out. Tielemans fired a rocket from the edge of the area that the Villa keeper just got his fingertips to, turning it onto the underside of the bar. The rebound came out to Ricardo, who found Madders on the edge of the area. His shot found the outstretched arm of Marvelous Nakamba, but neither Mike Dean nor VAR felt it was worthy of a penalty.

Does that look like a liver bird on our crest?

Leicester continued to have the run of play up until the half-time whistle. The Foxes went into the tunnel down 1-0 in spite of having 61% of the possession and out-shooting Villa 11-3 (4-1 on target).

The second half started in a scrappy fashion which suited the hosts. The play was errant passes, late challenges, Slabchin and Grealish squaring off, and not much in the way of football. It took only 10 minutes for Rodgers to decide to make his first change, taking off Ayoze for Vardy.

It was Villa, however, who should have had the next goal. Grealish switched to the right and sent and inch-perfect ball into the box, but debutante Mbwana Samatta failed to make any contact at all when any contact at all would have put the ball in the back of the net.

Leicester were finding themselves pinned back in their own area with the Villains winning a series of corners and the Foxes struggling to get the ball out of their own area. Madders and Iheanacho did manage to play a neat one-two in the Villa area just before the 70’ mark, but the former Norwich man couldn’t get over the ball and sent his first time effort over the bar.

Rodgers prepared to make another change, but he had second thoughts when Leicester leveled the tie against the run of play. A neat bit of work in midfield found Barnes on the left side of the area. He drove past his man and fired a ball across the face of goal. A shot? A cross? Who knows? Who cares? It fell to Iheanacho at the far post and he smashed home from close range.

Aston Villa v Leicester City - Carabao Cup: Semi Final
Celebrating a goal or pointing to Madders’ last shot?
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

The next fifteen minutes of the match were as tense as a cup final because, in sense, that’s exactly what they were. The Foxes had a brilliant chance to take the lead when Madders had yet another opportunity, but again, he couldn’t dig the ball out of his feet and sent the close range effort high over the bar.

On 85’, Rodgers made the change he was planning to make a quarter hour earlier with Demarai Gray replacing Harvey Barnes. His first contribution was to win a corner and Madders found Evans’ forehead, but the Northern Ireland international directed the ball just wide of the post.

Four minutes of time were added on for either side to try to find a winner and avoid penalties. Alas, it was Villa who found the winner. In the third minute of stoppage time, Ahmed Elmohamady picked up the ball in the Leicester half. No one closed him down and he sent in a spectacular ball to the back post that was met by Trézéguet who made good contact and gave Schmeichel no chance.

Leicester won a free kick in the 96th minute but Maddison put it into the wall and Mike Dean blew the whistle. The Foxes were out and Rodgers’ absurd streak in domestic cups was broken.

Aston Villa v Leicester City - Carabao Cup: Semi Final
You think you feel bad? Ask former Birmingham City starlet Demarai Gray how he feels.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Well, that was disappointing. I think even Villa fans would agree that Leicester were the better side over both legs, but that matters not a whit when the scoreboard says you’ve been defeated. Fair play to Villa for scoring on something approaching every chance they had, and especially to Ørjan Nyland for being absolutely out of his head in both legs of the tie.

It was a strange match in that no one particularly stood out and no one was especially poor. Madders was brilliant, although there were times when you wished he would have given other players the opportunity to be brilliant as well. Iheancho looks to be back to his goal-poaching best, and even though Harvey Barnes only had one noteable moment, it was a fine one indeed.

The defeat means nothing whatsoever with regards to the league, so there’s that. The Foxes host 4th-placed Chelsea on Saturday, and then travel to Molineaux after the winter break to take on Wolves.


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