The first half was one of the most exciting 45 minutes of football we've had the pleasure of seeing this season. Leicester had plenty of decent chances, and in the opening five or so minutes it looked as if they would dominate the match. But Villa's 4-2-3-1 quickly got a foothold and began playing the creative football we've spent years clamoring for. It started to become apparent in the seventh minute when a Carles Gil pass released Gabby Agbonlahor for a run. By the time he had evaded the defender to shoot, the angle was too much, so he sent a pass to Scott Sinclair on the far post, but it was just too late and the resulting shot went inches wide.
Again, in the 24th minute, Gil was the creative force behind another attack. This time he took the ball on the right side, made a great run into the box, and slotted off a pass to Jack Grealish who had only the keeper to beat. Unfortunately he shot it right at Schmeichel. The frustration was evident on Grealish's face, and he was seen jawing with Carlos Sanchez a bit.
But in addition to the frustration, Grealish seemed more fired up than we've ever seen him. It resulted in a few dumb mistakes, but in the 39th minute he collected a ball that had pinged around the box from a corner and took a thunderous 18-yard strike for his first ever senior Villa goal. The ball swerved its way through a crowd of Leicester defenders and found its way to the back of the right-hand side of the net. It was incredible, and it was cathartic. I let out the loudest cheer I have all season, and the joy was nothing compared to Grealish who ran straight to Tim Sherwood for a giant hug.
The second half started like they seemingly all do: with the opposition coming out strong and attacking. Leicester looked to be revived and a goal seemed inevitable. But the few chances they did get they couldn't finish, and the rest were adequately parried away by the Villa defense. In the 63rd minute, though, Villa powered through the run of play. With Gabby Agbonlahor running up the left side, Carles Gil found himself largely unmarked at the top of the box. Gabby sent back the pass and Gil struck as he arrived at the left-hand corner, curling in a powerful effort that was so great it didn't even get a cheer from me. I was too taken aback to cheer and instead just yelled words I shouldn't type here.
But, Villa can never make things easy. In the 72nd minute, Ritchie De Laet hammered a ball in off of a corner that hit the crossbar, and bounced out. Everyone played on as if the ball hadn't gone in, but the referee blew his whistle a second later and goal-line technology had confirmed that it was indeed 1-2. Game on!
And Villa forgot to play their half of the newly on game. Leicester absolutely took over the match. After a nightmare stretch, Jamie Vardy finally got his goal to make it 2-2, and if you've ever watched Villa you know what happened next: Leicester took the lead. In the 89th minute, Nathan Dyer was unleashed and got flattened by Brad Guzan who did nothing to prevent the goal. I'm not even sure what to say here. It was an atrocious play by Guzan and he is absolutely at fault for that.
The other big takeaway from today was YET ANOTHER tactically inept showing of substitutions from Tim Sherwood. Carles Gil was a dynamo for Villa, holding control of the ball and keeping pressure off of the defense. So why, then, did he get taken off for Jordan Ayew? And then, when Villa had a 2-0 lead, why take off Gabby Agbonlahor for Rudy Gestede and not, say, another midfielder? It was yet another incompetent showing from Tactics Tim and it pissed away three points.
This was set up to be such a great day, and twenty minutes of ineptitude insured it would not be.