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

Inability to defend set pieces dooms the Foxes yet again.

Aston Villa v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Aston Villa by a score of 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Villa Park. The Foxes started strongly, taking an early lead through Harvey Barnes. Two Ezri Konsa goals from corners, one in each half, gave Villa the win as the City defence turned in another dire performance defending set-pieces.

Manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the side that drew at Southampton on Thursday, giving Jamie Vardy and Boubakary Soumare some much-needed rest as the fixtures pile up: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Luke Thomas, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Wilfred Ndidi, Ademola Lookman, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Patson Daka.

Handed his first Premier League start, Daka did the hard work to set up the opening goal of the match. Villa turned the ball over in the Leicester half, allowing Madders to start a break. His pass to Daka was a little short, allowing the defence to catch up to the Zambian striker. No matter though, as he held the ball through four challenges before slipping the ball wide to Barnes. The winger looked to be shaping to shoot with his left boot before passing it between the defender’s legs and into the back of the net with his right.

Aston Villa v Leicester City - Premier League
Unrelated to the photo, but it turns out I can dislike Villa even without Grealish in the squad. Good to know.
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

The lead lasted approximately no time at all. Villa’s first attack after the break resulted in a corner. Schmeichel got a hand to the first ball, but only knocked it as far as Matty Cash, who headed it to Emiliano Buendia in the centre of the area. The smallest man on the pitch rose to plant a header towards the far post. Ezri Konsa just got a stud on the ball to direct it inside the post to level the score.

Things calmed down over the next twenty minutes in the sense that there were no goals, but that doesn’t mean that the ball wasn’t pinging around in both penalty areas. Barnes and Daka in particular were wreaking havoc every time the Foxes got forward. Villa had far fewer opportunities but the Leicester defence made everything look more dangerous than it ought to have.

Villa had the ball in the net right at the end of the half but VAR reared its ugly head to save the Schmeichel from himself. The Danish keeper got caught in no-man's-land on a long cross past the far post. The ball was headed back and the keeper got a hand to it but spilled it into the path of Jacob Ramsey, who smashed it home as Schmeichel tried to recover it. VAR took a long look and asked referee Michael Oliver to check it. Somewhat unbelievably, the referee determined that having his hand on top of the ball for a split-second constituted “control” and the goal was chalked off.

It was harsh. You can make the argument that the ruling was technically correct, but you sure don’t see it called very often. Had it gone against us, I’d be pretty salty about it. The rule is...baffling. Regardless, that was the last action of the first half. The Foxes were the better side. The Foxes probably should have been down 2-1. Funny game.

Neither manager made any changes at the break, but it was Villa boss Steven Gerrard’s team talk seemed to have made the greater impact. Villa were all over the City from the opening whistle and it was no surprise when they took lead from (also no surprise) a corner kick. Just simple stuff: A ball to the far post found Konsa and he headed it in.

Rodgers understandably didn’t care for what was he was seeing and introduced Jamie Vardy for Lookman just after the hour. The run of play didn’t immediately improve as both Ollie Watkins and Ramsey spurned golden opportunities to put the game to bed, denied by Schmeichel and terrible shooting respectively.

Leicester should have had a penalty on 75’ minutes. Madders played a short corner to Dewsbury-Hall, who got to the ball ahead of Douglas Luiz, whose late challenge saw him stand on the midfielder’s foot and bring him down. There’s really no argument for not calling the penalty other than perhaps it being a make-up call from Michael Oliver.

The gaffer hauled off Daka on 80’, giving Ayoze Perez ten minutes to make an impact. Five minutes later with the match slipping away, Kelechi Iheanacho came on for Dewsbury-Hall. City won a series of corners without ever looking like scoring. Things started to get silly as John McGinn fouled Ndidi after losing out on a challenge. Oliver blew the whistle, but McGinn went and fouled Thomas, kicked the ball out of bounds, brought it back in, fouled Schmeichel, and kicked the ball in the net.

It really was like watching an inebriated fan invade the pitch, kick the ball into the net, and then get tackled by a dozen security guards.

In injury time, Schmeichel came forward a couple of times for set pieces, but nothing interesting came of it. That was the last gasp for the Foxes, who never really looked like scoring in the second half no matter how much time was added on.

That was not great.

Leicester both could have scored 3-4 goals in the first half and could have been down 3-1. Flipping the script on our usual modus operandi, the Foxes started well and just completely lost the plot at the half. But, the story has to be the set-piece defending:

Chelsea and Manchester City have only conceded 9 total goals in the time we’ve conceded 10 from set pieces.

I know I say this every week but were are still missing three starters in defence. We’re going to struggle at the back so long as that’s the case. That doesn’t explain the staggering number of goals we allow from set-pieces. Is it the coaching? Is it the goalkeeper? Is it the lack of cover in the midfield? Do we just lack the physical presence to play in this era when referees are instructed to allow more contact? I don’t know, but something is deeply wrong at the back.

The defeat leaves us on 19 points from 15 matches, good enough for 11th on the table. We travel to sunny Italy on Thursday to face Napoli in the final Europa League group stage match. We’re back in Premier League action next Sunday, hosting Newcastle at the King Power.