Pepe Reina’s mistake set the tone for a horrific performance against Leicester City – who took their revenge for the Carabao semis.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa travelled to the King Power Stadium on a wet Monday evening to face Leicester City for the first time since they knocked the Foxes out of the Carabao Cup in the Semi-Final.
The Villans started brightly, pressing well and playing some quick, one-touch football.
Aston Villa had a well-worked opportunity within the first six or so minutes as Jack Grealish found the onrushing Matt Targett who cut the ball slightly behind himself for Conor Hourihane – who scuffed at the shot and the ball ran past him.
Just two minutes later, Hourihane almost turned provider as he curled in a dead ball towards the back post, where Samatta attempted to get a touch – but the Tanzanian’s trailing leg hit the ball instead of his leading one.
There was a scare in the ninth minute, as a ball over the top almost found Kelechi Iheanacho – forcing Bjorn Engels to head it out for a corner, and almost into his own net. The resulting corner saw Johnny Evans rush into the six yard box and head towards goal – and the defender would have scored if his header wasn’t directly towards Pepe Reina who made a strong save. It’s clear that there’s an issue with the zonal marking for the clubs defenders.
Between the 10th and 20th minutes, the tides turned and saw Leicester assert their dominance at their home stomping ground.
Leicester had shouts for a penalty in the 22nd minute as former Villa target James Justin was downed in the area by Frederic Guilbert, but the Frenchman had timed his tackle to perfection and appeals were waved away.
Corners and crosses continued to rain down into the Aston Villa box as the claret and blue defence consistently struggled with their marking – allowing Iheanacho a glancing header in the 33rd minute which was headed just wide.
Pepe Reina was at fault for Aston Villa conceding in the 40th minute, as a ball over the top found Harvey Barnes on the left. The Spanish goalkeeper rushed out of his net – a moment of blindness from the most experienced player on the pitch – and was never going to get to the ball before Barnes. The winger flicked the ball past Reina before slotting the ball into the net past Tyrone Mings who was left to try and defend the open goal.
Aston Villa had an early scare in the second half as a defensive lapse allowed Kelechi Iheanacho through on goal, but the Nigerian international fired directly at Pepe Reina.
Conor Hourihane had an attempt in the 50th minute as he cut onto his weaker foot in a central position, but the midfielder slipped as he struck the ball and his attempt flew over the bar.
Another mistake nearly let Iheanacho through in the 56th minute – but Matt Targett and Tyrone Mings were quick to smother the ball. Three minutes later, and Brendan Rodgers decided that was enough from the Nigerian, who was replaced by Jamie Vardy.
Leicester City were awarded a penalty in the 61st minute as Tyrone Mings stooped low to defend a cross, blocking the incoming ball with his shoulder. The referee pointed directly to the spot, and then VAR confirmed it. Never a penalty, surely?
Anwar El Ghazi replaced Ahmed Elhomady shortly after Vardy netted the penalty. Keinan Davis replaced Conor Hourihane a few minutes later.
Dennis Praet was booked for a challenge on Marvelous Nakamba as the clock ticked to the 70 minute mark. Johnny Evans was booked for a foul of Mbwana Samatta five minutes later.
Jamie Vardy picked up a brace in the 79th minute as Aston Villa looked like they lacked ideas and effort in their attacking and defensive phases and an embarrassing period of play ensued in which Vardy’s snapshot found its way past Pepe Reina.
A fourth was picked up in the 85th minute as Marc Albrighton found space on the right, before cutting the ball into Harvey Barnes who fired a rocket past Pepe Reina.
A horrid performance. What next.