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Less than three months after avoiding relegation by a single point, Aston Villa can go top of the Premier League if they beat Leeds on Friday after a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Ross Barkley’s glorious injury-time strike sealed their fourth consecutive victory and should make people sit up and take notice just as much as the 7-2 triumph over champions Liverpool a fortnight ago.
How different it was when these sides last met, when Leicester won 4-0 on March 9 in the last Premier League fixture to be played before a crowd.
Aston Villa earned their fourth straight win to start the season at Leicester on Sunday night
An injury-time Ross Barkley rocket proved the difference after a tight game at the King Power
Leicester have now recorded back-to-back defeat since their 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City
Villa looked relegation certainties back then, but they emerged a much stronger side after the three-month coronavirus shutdown and given their summer business, they will now feel the possibilities are endless after on-loan Chelsea midfielder Barkley’s superb 25-yard effort.
Leicester were solid enough and played some nice football but how they missed Jamie Vardy, who was absent with a calf problem.
The fact Brendan Rodgers turned to Islam Slimani – whose previous appearance was nearly three years ago – for the final 20 minutes, showed just how much Leicester rely on their premier striker.
With Barkley’s arrival, Villa are no longer as dependent on Jack Grealish, who shone intermittently after being left on the bench twice by England following his man-of-the-match performance against Wales on October 8.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Leicester (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel 6; Castagne 6.5, Fofana 7, Evans 6, Justin 7; Mendy 6 (Choudhury 78), Tielemans 6; Perez 6.5, Praet 6 (Maddison 68, 6.5), Barnes 6.5; Iheanacho 6 (Slimani 71). Subs not used: Ward, Morgan, Albrighton, Under.
Booked: Perez, Tielemans, Castagne, Evans
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 6.5
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez 7; Cash 7, Konsa 6.5, Mings 7.5, Targett 6; Luiz 6.5, McGinn 7; Trezeguet 7 (Traore 81), Barkley 7, Grealish 7; Watkins 6.5. Subs not used: Steer, Hourihane, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Engels, Elmohamady.
Booked: McGinn, Cash, Luiz
Manager: Dean Smith 7
Referee: Jon Moss 7
Villa humiliated Liverpool with a 7-2 win in the last game but were frustrated at the King Power
Leicester were stunned by the late strike after failing to score for the second game in a row
Making his Leicester debut following a £31.5million move from St Etienne, Wesley Fofana was quickly introduced to the rougher side of English football when Ollie Watkins’ forearm caught him in the side of the head in only the fourth minute.
Fofana was not intimidated, though, and had the better of his tussle with Watkins – who scored a hat-trick in the incredible win over Liverpool – before half-time.
That reflected the trend of the opening 45 minutes, when both sides struggled to create clear chances despite some promising approach work.
Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had only one difficult save to make – a close-range effort from Timothy Castagne from a tight angle which the Argentine pushed wide of his near post.
James Maddison returned to first-team action after a long spell on the sidelines and impressed
Barkley was a late loan signing from Chelsea this summer and he’s had an instant impact
His Leicester counterpart Kasper Schmeichel had an even quieter time before the break, though Villa did come close when Trezeguet fired just wide in the 26th minute following Villa’s best move of the match.
John McGinn found Matt Targett with a crossfield pass, allowing the left-back to slip the ball inside for Grealish. The Villa skipper cut it back for Trezeguet but James Justin did enough to put off the Egyptian.
Matty Cash was impressive for Villa at right-back, and when he did make a mistake, Cash did not think twice about dragging Harvey Barnes back by the shorts as the winger tried to race clear. A yellow card was inevitable, but Tyrone Mings clearly approved. ‘Don’t mind it, Cashy – well done,’ bellowed the England centre-back.
After a quiet 45 minutes, Grealish drew two defenders in stoppage time and produced a brilliant back-heel to release Matt Targett, whose cross was too high for Trezeguet at the far post.
Villa piled on Leicester’s recent misery after a 3-0 defeat to West Ham in their last match
The first-half passed with very few chances as both sides were locked in a midfield battle
Based on this game, Grealish will make a staunch defence of his title as the Premier League’s most-fouled player.
The 25-year-old’s frustration threatened to boil over early in the second half when, after being bundled over by Castagne, he asked referee Jon Moss: ‘How many more times am I going to get fouled today?’
Moments later, though, he delivered a precise corner to the far post which was headed narrowly wide by Ezri Konsa.
Villa were starting to gain some control yet Leicester remained a threat when they had the ball. A mistake by Barkley near the edge of the box presented the ball to Youri Tielemans, and Martinez did well to push away the powerful low drive from 25 yards.
Dean Smith’s side have made a sensational turnaround after narrowly avoiding relegation
Yet at this stage, Villa looked the stronger side. Justin did well to take the sting off Watkins’ strike after another powerful break, while moments earlier McGinn just failed to pick out Trezeguet after Mings had released him down the left, and Douglas Luiz shot straight at Schmeichel.
Grealish wasted two chances on the break after Leicester had introduced first James Maddison and then Slimani – whose previous appearance for the club was on January 16, 2018 – to try to open the door.
Villa came closer to doing so, however, when substitute Bertrand Traore headed McGinn’s cross straight at Schmeichel in the last minute, and they finally blew it off the hinges when Barkley crashed past Schmeichel from distance.