Leicester City saw off Aston Villa by a score of 4-2 at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon in Premier League action. The first half saw Villa take the lead twice through Ollie Watkins and a Harry Souttar own goal. The Foxes equalised both times from James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho strikes. Tetê scored on his debut just before the half-time whistle. Substitute Dennis Praet provided the icing on the cake with the second half’s only goal.
Brendan Rodgers rolled out Leicester City 2022/23 v2.0 with all three of his January signings in the starting XI: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Harry Souttar, Wout Faes, Victor Kristiansen, Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Maddison, Tetê, Harvey Barnes, and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The squad may have been revamped, but the match started in a fashion that will be familiar to all City fans this year. On 10’, Emiliano Buendia curled a hopeful shot from distance that beat Ward but came back off the crossbar. The entire back line were caught watching the ball, allowing Ollie Watkins to waltz onto the loose ball and blast the ball into the back of the net.
The deficit was short-lived as the Foxes immediately manufactured an equaliser with a huge assist from the hosts. Emiliano Martinez played a short goal kick to Boubakar Kamara who was immediately closed down by KDH, who won the ball cleanly. Iheanacho pounced and unselfishly slid it to Madders, who do some Madders things to bamboozle the defenders and slip the ball past the keeper.
City had to absorb an extended period of pressure from the Villans in the middle section of the half. Lucas Digne found Buendia in space on the edge of the area. The Argentine’s cross found Watkins alone at the back post, but he fluffed his lines with the goalmouth gaping. It was Buendia again five minutes later. This time, he got on the end of a Douglas Luiz corner and glanced it against the far post and out to safety.
Souttar became the first of the new Foxes to get on the scoresheet but, as is often the case with defenders, it was in the most unfortunate fashion. On the half-hour, Watkins tried to fire a low ball across the goalmouth. It deflected off of the Australia international’s boot, wrong-footing Ward, and trickling into the back of the net.
This time it took ten minutes to restore parity, but it was worth the wait. A furious City attack saw the ball switched from the left to the right and back to the left again. Kristiansen and Barnes combined well on the left, allowing the winger to fire in a venomous cross that evaded the entire Villa defence. It did not evade Iheanacho, whose diving header gave Martinez no chance at all.
The Foxes took the lead in the final seconds of the injury time. Kamara was caught in possession again, this time on the halfway line. The ball dropped to Iheanacho, who found Tetê’s run with a perfect through ball. The Brazillian kept his cool, rounded the keeper, and slotted home into an empty net. It was the perfect way to cap an absolutely exhausting half of football.
The unchanged Foxes should have extended their lead inside the first minutes of the second period. Villa gave the ball away right from the kickoff. Tielemans spotted the Iheanacho’s run, putting the Seniorman one-on-one with Martinez. On his stronger left foot, he curled the ball into the side netting from an angle where hitting the target would have been easier.
Neither side were able to hold on to the ball, so there were chances a-plenty at both ends, but neither side were able to add to their considerable first-half total. Tetê was growing into the match as the Foxes’ attacks were increasingly down his right side. At the other end, the mercurial Buendia was causing problems, dancing through the defence at will and finding Watkins, who would always hold the ball too long and see the chance lost.
Rodgers made his first moves on 67’, withdrawing Iheanacho, Madders and KDH and introducing Jamie Vardy, Dennis Praet and Nampalys Mendy. It was Villa who had the ball in the back of the net next as the hosts’ corner was only half cleared and directed out wide to substitute Philippe Coutinho. The former Liverpool man tucked home from a tight angle, but he’d come from an offside position to retrieve the ball.
The Villans were yet again the architects of their own downfall on 78. A turnover in midfield gave Barnes the chance to send a hopeful ball over the top towards Praet. Alex Moreno should have dealt with it comfortably, but he got it all wrong and presented the ball to the Belgian, who rounded the keeper and fired home into the unguarded net.
The gaffer made use of all five of his substitutions today, getting Luke Thomas and Çağlar Söyüncü into the action and hauling off Kristiansen and Tetê. Cags first action was to absolutely wipe out substitute Jhon Duran and pick up a yellow card, which was likely exactly what he was brought on to do.
The match just sort of petered out at this point which was very much what the Foxes wanted. The whistle blew and the Foxes had the three points in the bag. It wasn’t pretty, or even presentable, but it was a lot of (very nervous) fun.
That was...eventful. That was about as eventful as a match gets. City were out-shot 19-9, but we scored with our first four shots on target. One suspects the xG nerds are not going to be impressed, but they’re not the ones hovering just outside the relegation zone and in dire need of three points by any means necessary.
Tetê impressed mightily in his first match, getting into great positions and making life miserable for the Villa defence. Souttar’s own goal wasn’t really his fault, but it was still a mixed performance, albeit one with promise. He looks great in the air and he’s got a bit of a mean streak. Kristiansen was a bit loose with the ball early on, but he settled down and he’s very, very quick with his passing. All in all, it was an encouraging look at the future of this club.
The man of the match, though, has to be the Seniorman. Iheanacho got two assists and a goal in the first half, but of (almost) equal importance, he is able to drop deep and play in the wingers. He’s absolutely perfect for a formation where the two wide attackers love to cut inside. This could be his time to shine, and man oh man he deserves a run in this side.
The win gives us 21 points from 21 matches. That’s good enough for 13th on the table, but we’re still only 3 points above the relegation zone. Next Saturday, we square off against Tottenham Hotspur at the King Power. On the 19th, we travel to the northwest to face Manchester United at Old Trafford.