Dominant Leicester up to second as first-half strikes down Villa

Date published: Sunday 21st February 2021 4:00 - Neil Foster

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Leicester City strengthened their grip on a Champions League spot with a stubborn and deserved 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Quickfire first-half goals from James Maddison and Harvey Barnes moved the Foxes back into second in the Premier League.

Bertrand Traore pulled a goal back for the hosts but Leicester edged three points clear of Manchester United. The Red Devils play Newcastle later on Sunday evening.

While leaders Manchester City remain untroubled at the top, the Foxes look increasingly likely to return to the Champions League. It is four years since their last appearance after their heart-breaking final-day miss last season.

Villa were punished for an awful first half and, without Jack Grealish, lacked the quality, initiative and drive to recover. Their problems ran deeper than their absent skipper, though, with Ross Barkley again underwhelming.

And Dean Smith’s side have now won just three of their last 10 top-flight games to further dent their European hopes. Aside from brief spells in the second half, Villa never got going and Leicester quickly took advantage.

Villa’s threat failed to materialise and the Foxes took complete control with two goals in four minutes. Youri Tielemans’ searching pass for Jamie Vardy was half cleared to Barnes and he found Maddison.

The midfielder, on the edge of the box, still had plenty to do. But he found the bottom corner via the post to give his side a 19th-minute lead.

It was a deserved opener and the visitors’ afternoon improved when Barnes smashed in from close range after Martinez parried Jamie Vardy’s effort.

Villa had no answer and were overrun in midfield, with Barnes again impressing in front of England boss Gareth Southgate.

The winger’s ninth Premier League goal of the season moved him ahead of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.

Early Villa response

From a Villa perspective, Leicester were worryingly comfortable, but Smith gave his side the chance to redeem themselves. They rewarded him by pulling a goal back three minutes after the break.

The Foxes failed to deal with Matt Targett’s cross and Traore was left unmarked to beat Kasper Schmeichel from close range.

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But Leicester remained unflustered and Maddison tested Martinez with a free-kick before being forced off with an ankle problem. He was replaced by Nampalys Mendy after 64 minutes.

Vardy dragged wide as the game ambled to a conclusion and Villa tried to find the momentum for a point.

Trezeguet’s weak effort rolled to Schmeichel as Leicester’s resolve held firm through five minutes of stoppage time.

 

READ MORE: Smith responds to interest in Villa star

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