Goals by James Maddison (19’) and Harvey Barnes (23’) in the space of four minutes inside the first quarter of the game rewarded the Foxes’ dominance early on.
Villa were left punished for not pressing Leicester’s creative players and allowing them the room to create chances and chase rebounds.
Bertrand Traoré’s acrobatic volleyed goal (48’), pouncing on a flick on by John McGinn in the box, gave Villa life and belief to go on and grab the equalizer in the second, but the final touch never came as Brendan Rodgers moved to a more cautious and defensive approach after their talisman, James Maddison, went off injured at the hour mark.
Tale of two halves
Leicester were rampant in the first half, limiting the home side to a single blocked attempt by Traoré, while themselves taking advantage of a sluggish start by Villa, allowing them the time and space to keep possession, find passes, and make chances almost at will.
Villa wrestled back some control at the quarter-hour mark, but Leicester’s quick-fire double subdued the Lions for the duration of the first half, although signs of pressure were rising as the half drew to a close.
Traoré’s early second-half goal was the starting pistol for sustained Villa pressure through the second half, but it was for the most half-toothless, with only two actual on-target attempts being recorded.
There was a half-hearted call for a penalty for Ollie Watkins late on as he was restricted going for a ball in the six-yard box, but a VAR review quickly found that it to be nothing more than an on-field collision.
Tale of two pre-game injuries
Rumors of an injury to Jack Grealish surfaced on Friday as those following Fantasy Premier League noted some Villa insiders transferring out their captain; sending Villa fans into a nervous frenzy.
This was then confirmed shortly before the game, with El Ghazi the man to replace him on the left-hand side.
The injury said to be unknown, his absence more a precaution, and seen as ‘game-by-game’ for now.
Although this depends on who you listen to: Dean Smith in his pre-game interview is hopeful he can start in Villa’s next game against Leeds, The Athletic reported that an assessment is likely to take place after that game, and BBC Sport speculated that he’s out for a month.
Grealish’s presence was certainly missed in the first half with the side unable to carry the ball forward, but a shift to the team’s shape towards the end of the half to more of a 4-1-4-1 did seem to offer a more robust attacking threat; allowing Traoré and McGinn to build up play more in the Leicester half.
The biggest absentee today may have been the one we knew about in advance.
Matty Cash’s absence was highly noticeable with the right-wing pairing of Ahmed Elmohamady and Bertrand Traoré looking disjointed and slow against Leicester’s left-hand side.
The first half saw many chances start from Elmohamady being caught too high forward and Leicester’s second goal was the result of the Egyptian being caught ball-watching rather than covering his man for the rebound.
What’s more, Harvey Barnes ended up being the man of the match with a goal, assist, and the most chances created in which further laments Villa’s issues defending on the right hand side without the injured Matty Cash and Frederic Guilbert loaned out in Strasbourg.
It wasn’t a pretty game and Villa certainly looked rusty finding their feet without two of their key in-form players, but they gave Leicester City a real scare and it’s important to remember that the Foxes are second place in the league after today’s result.
If Villa can take that second-half performance, add some more attacking intent, and link-up play, they should be capable of answering back against Leeds in their next game.
No doubt there will be questions as to personnel too.
Ross Barkley, again, seemed off the pace with all three substitutes (Ramsey, Trezeguet, and Sanson) looking more attacking, purposeful, and exciting.
Other positions in the midfield could also potentially use some rotation as well.