Villa fight back to hold league leaders Leicester

Date published: Saturday 16th January 2016 7:24

Aston Villa fought back to earn a 1-1 draw against Leicester City, who moved back to the top of the Premier League with the point at Villa Park.

Shinji Okazaki put Leicester ahead in the 28th minute with a close-range which had to be confirmed by goal-line technology, but Riyad Mahrez missed the chance to make it 2-0 five minutes later when his penalty kick was saved by Mark Bunn after Aly Cissokho had handled his shot.

The save lifted the Villa fans and players, who earned themselves a deserved share of the spoils when substitute Rudy Gestede fired in via a deflection.

Arsenal will overtake Claudio Ranieri’s side on goal difference with a draw at Stoke City on Sunday, with the Foxes a point ahead of the Gunners and Manchester City in their improbable title challenge.

The draw left battling Villa nine points from safety, but Remi Garde can at least highlight improved performances in what seems like a futile struggle against the drop.

Both sides were unchanged from their midweek 1-0 wins, but there was no hint of the first-half drama to come during an drab opening.

There was little of note from either side, other than Jamie Vardy’s flicked header on 13 minutes which dropped inches wide.

Bunn bizarrely flattened Vardy after rushing from his area, and was rightfully booked, but it was a low-key start until Libor Kozak missed a glorious chance after 20 minutes.

Robert Huth presented him with a clean run on goal after his miscued backpass, but Kasper Schmeichel comfortably saved the striker’s effort – which lacked any conviction.

Kozak’s last goal came in December 2013 and his selection, after Garde said he could leave this month, still underlined how desperate Villa are.

It was a miss Villa were left to rue after Okazaki broke the deadlock on 29 minutes.

Shinji Okazaki goal Aston Villa

Leicester went route one as Vardy raced onto Schmeichel’s kick and his audacious lob with the outside of his foot was clawed off the line by Bunn.

The keeper then tried to stop Okazaki’s follow up, but goal-line technology showed the ball clearly went over.

Tails up, Leicester went for the kill and missed a golden chance to double their lead just four minutes later.

Villa were shell-shocked and conceded a penalty when Aly Cissokho blocked Mahrez’s shot with his arm.

The defender was lucky to only be booked but was bailed out when Bunn dived to his right to save Mahrez’s poor spot-kick – the winger’s second successive penalty miss.

Riyad Mahrez penalty Aston Villa

Villa’s response was muted with Schmeichel claiming Cissokho’s drive and – with dad Peter watching from the stands – he denied the defender again soon after the break.

Bunn then turned Danny Drinkwater’s 20-yard effort over before Villa had a huge penalty claim rejected on 61 minutes.

Kozak and Huth tangled in the box as they challenged for Ashley Westwood’s cross – the Leicester man’s flailing arm caught the Villa striker – but referee Roger East dismissed home appeals.

The incident galvanised Villa and Bacuna wasted a fine chance when he shot straight at Schmeichel five minutes later.

But the Foxes almost doubled their lead soon after when Vardy outpaced the Villa defence and rounded Bunn. He was forced wide yet crossed for the onrushing Drinkwater, only for the midfielder to volley wide from eight yards.

Gaps had started to appear in the hosts’ defence, but it was Leicester who were breached with 15 minutes remaining.

Gestede had only been on the pitch eight minutes but levelled with his fifth goal of the season when he bulldozed through and his shot flew past Schmeichel after clipping Wes Morgan.

It lifted Villa Park, but they failed to find a second goal and Vardy could have won it for Leicester in stoppage time when he thrashed over from an angle.

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