Less than three months after avoiding relegation by a single point, Aston Villa can go top of the Premier League if they avoid defeat by Leeds on Friday after a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Ross Barkley’s glorious stoppage-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. They now have the only 100 per cent record in the top five leagues in England.
Barkley ran to celebrate with club doctor Ricky Shamji after boss Dean Smith revealed the player had not trained until Saturday due to a knee problem. Leicester, meanwhile, lacked cutting edge without the injured Jamie Vardy, who hopes to have recovered from a calf injury in time to face Arsenal on Sunday.
Aston Villa earned their fourth straight win to start the season at Leicester on Sunday night
An stoppage-time Ross Barkley rocket proved the difference after at the King Power Stadium
Leicester have now recorded back-to-back defeats since a 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City
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. 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.
‘Ross is a high calibre player and we are thankful to Chelsea for loaning him to us,’ said Smith. ‘I sold him the project: if he came here I would try to get him into the England squad for Euro 2020, and he would try to help us win matches. He’s certainly doing that so far.’
Barkley scored on his debut against Liverpool and made a decisive impact once again.
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.
Scorers: Barkley 90
Booked: McGinn, Cash, Luiz
Manager: Dean Smith 7
Referee: Jon Moss 7
Man of the Match: Mings
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
Leicester were solid enough and played some nice football but how they missed 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.
‘The second half was like basketball and to lose so late was disappointing,’ said Rodgers. ‘We have to learn from it and go again.’ Rodgers also revealed that defender Caglar Soyuncu would be sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.
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.
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
Meanwhile, Wesley Fofana was impressive on his Leicester debut following a £31.5million move from St Etienne.
Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had only one difficult save to make in the first half – a close-range effort from Timothy Castagne from a tight angle which the Argentine pushed wide of his near post.
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.
Villa piled on Leicester’s recent misery after a 3-0 defeat by West Ham in their last match
The first-half passed with very few chances as both sides were locked in a midfield battle
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 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 John 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.