FAN REPORT – Foxes Frustrated by Valiant Villa

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The Foxes went to Villa Park off the back of a superb midweek victory over fellow top four candidates Tottenham.

The Foxes edge this fixture with 41 wins over Villas 33, however Villa Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for City recently with a league and FA Cup defeat last season and arguably the worst two performances of the campaign, both ending 2-1.

Villa were buoyed by their own midweek win over Crystal Palace and although their goal in the slender 1-0 victory was fortunate, they had to put in a dogged performance and work hard for the 3 points.

City went with an unchanged line up from Spurs, however De Laet came in on the bench over Nathan Dyer.

Despite Leicester starting the match strongly and dominating early possession, there were few chances of note until Okazaki scored on 27. A long ball from Schmeichel found Vardy who cleverly lobbed former City loanee ‘keeper Mark Bunn.  Bunn scrambled back and clawed out Vardys effort only for Shinji Okazaki to hit the rebound home from 2 yards out for his 5th in all competitions, all coming away from home.

Villa Huth
On 32, City had the chance to double their lead. Vardy laid the ball across to Riyad Mahrez who smashed the ball towards goal, only for Aly Cissokho to block the effort with his hand getting booked in the process. The ref pointed to the spot and although Cissokho could do little to get out of the way, the handball stopped a definite goal.

Mahrez stepped up having missed his last spot kick, but he is currently the first choice penalty taker. He struck the ball straight down the middle with what was a lazy penalty and Bunn saved with his legs.

From here on in, City were dented by the miss and the Villa players and fans took energy from the save. Despite this new found energy, City went into the break 1-0 up.

The Foxes rarely got going in he second period, only a Danny Drinkwater effort really testing Bunn on 58 minutes and a Vardy break which he took round the keeper, crossing to Drinkwater who scuffed his shot wide on 66.

De Laet had replaced Shinji Okazaki between those two efforts in what was a puzzling substitution from the Italian, as City have better attacking options on the bench, particularly in Damarai Gray.

Riyad Mahrez made way for Ulloa on 68 and the Algerian will be disappointed with his contribution. Ulloa failed to make much impact as City rarely got going in the second period. They were left to rue missed chances on 75 as Villa equalised through substitute Rudy Gestede.

The ball fell to Gestede outside the 18 yard box and appeared to bounce up and hit his hand and although not deliberate, he clearly got an advantage from the handball.  He struck the ball towards goal which hit Morgan on his arm deflecting the ball past Schmeichel. If Morgan had deflected the ball elsewhere, it would have no doubt been a penalty for handball.

Gray came on for Albrighton on 85, but it was too little too late for the Foxes and it certainly was a case of 2 points dropped. There is clearly something about Villa Park that City don’t like as it was the worst performance so far this season. It was perhaps just a game too soon after the battling performance at White Heart Lane coupled with Villa having an extra days rest having played on Tuesday.

It was enough to take City back to the top but only by one point, however Arsenal reclaimed top spot 24 hours later with a 0-0 draw at Stoke, with only goal difference separating the top two.

A disappointing and frustrating game, however the magnitude of what City are doing at present still cannot be overlooked as extremely impressive. That said, if we really are to be title contenders and not nearly men, it is games like this we really need to take the chances when they come.

Mahrez has won more points than he has lost for us, but his dip in form is worrying. Is he just tired? Are teams marking him out the game more? Or has his head been turned at transfer speculation? Time will tell.

Man of the Match – Danny Drinkwater

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